By: Nicholas McGuire
In State v. Bishop, the North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the state’s cyber-bullying statute on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Cyber-bullying, bullying that occurs through electronic technology, has become more prevalent in recent years as much of adolescent life shifts to social media and digital communications. Increasing evidence of cyber-bullying’s negative effects on children has prompted numerous state legislatures to take action. Many states have enacted generic policies for school personnel to take reasonable action to combat cyber-bullying during school hours. This note, however, argues for an alternative approach to combat cyber-bullying; one that looks to the common law torts of libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress as means to reframe the constitutional debate surrounding the issue. Given the Supreme Court’s established framework of dignitary tort jurisprudence, a carefully crafted cyber-bullying law could withstand the First Amendment challenges that rendered North Carolina’s law unconstitutional.