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dreamstime_xs_10003188wbShould our democracy allow schools to punish students for off-campus cyberbullying?

In 2010, Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old living in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, committed suicide after being bullied by other students. She suffered both face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying, including abusive comments made off-campus on Internet social networks. After her suicide, nine students involved in the cyberbullying faced criminal charges. Phoebe’s story was widely covered in the media, but there are many stories like her in the United States of America.

Materials (pdf)









Links to Principles of Democracy

The nature of democracy changes and grows along with its citizenry, but it’s always based on principles that help citizens modify, uphold, and strengthen their democracy. Visit the DDA Democratic Principles and Activities page to learn more about the principles underlying democracy and gain access to activities that help students understand the complexity of democracy. 

We’ve identified some democratic principles addressed in this lesson “Should our democracy allow schools to punish students for off-campus cyberbullying?” What principles might you add to the list below?

Please click here for the pdf of the fourteen principles handout on our Democratic Principles & Activities page.


Bill of Rights

Bill of Rights
billofrightsMost democratic countries have a list of citizens’ rights and freedoms.  Often called a “Bill of Rights,” this document limits the power of government and explains the freedoms that are guaranteed to all people in the country.  It protects people from a government that might abuse its powers.  When a Bill of Rights becomes part of a country’s constitution, the courts have the power to enforce these rights.

Human Rights

Human Rights
humanrightsAll democracies strive to value human life and dignity and to respect and protect the human rights of citizens.  Examples include, but are not limited to the following:

Movement: Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of his or her country. Everyone has the right to leave and to return to his or her country.  (Article 13, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Religion: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.  This right includes freedom to change his or her religion and to worship alone or in community with others. It also includes the right to not worship or hold religious beliefs.  (Article 18, UDHR)

Speech: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.  This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information with others. (Article19. UDHR)

Assembly: Everyone has the right to organize peaceful meetings or to take part in meetings in a peaceful way. It is undemocratic to force someone to belong to a political group or to attend political meetings or rallies. (Article 20, UDHR)


Selected Resources

Alvarado, Vanessa Maya, and Daniel Tapia Quintana, "Cyberbullying in Mexico: The Importance of Implementing Earlier Public Policies to Limit Its Growth," Revista AZ (January 2010), (accessed June 24, 2011).

Del Rio Perez, Jorge, et al., "Cyberbullying: un analisis comparative en estudiantes de Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, y Venezuela,” (Pamplona, Espana: Departamento de Communicacion Audiovisual y Publicidad y Literatura Foro Generaciones Interactivas, Universidad de Navarra, 2009), (accessed June 24, 2011).

Hinduja, Sameer, and Justin W. Patchin, "Cyberbullying and Suicide Fact Sheet" (Jupiter, FL: The Cyberbullying Research Center, 2010), (accessed June 24, 2011).

Willard, Nancy E.,"Educator’s Guide to Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats” (Eugene, OR: Center for Safe and Responsible Use of the Internet, April 2007), (accessed June 24, 2011).