Why Is My Child Being Expelled For Sexual Bullying Online?

cyber sexual bullying in schools

Last Updated on August 9, 2023 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

Student bullying and sexual bullying are offenses that get students suspended or expelled. School sexual bullying is expellable in California whether it occurs in school, online, via social media, or otherwise, if it substantially disrupts the school environment.

Online Sexual School Bullying, Legal Definition

Online sexual bullying is defined by California state law. California Education Code §48900(r)(2)(iii) states:

“cyber sexual bullying” means the dissemination of, or the solicitation or incitement to disseminate, a photograph or other visual recording by a pupil to another pupil or to school personnel by means of an electronic act that has or can be reasonably predicted to have one or more of the effects described in [Bullying law: section 48900(r)]. A photograph or other visual recording… shall include the depiction of a nude, semi-nude, or sexually explicit photograph or other visual recording of a minor where the minor is identifiable from the photograph, visual recording, or other electronic act.

Online sexual bullying can have terrible consequences for kids and can get a student expelled

Per this code, an act of cyber sexual bullying must amount to “bullying,” but also must encompass sexual acts.  

What Could Be Sexual Bullying?

Some examples of cyber sexual bullying are sexual harassment via language, pictures or posts, sexting, or actions that harass someone sexually or based on their gender.

Comments When Cyber Sexual Bullying Law Signed

When former Governor Jerry Brown signed the online sexual bullying into law, a press release explained:

Sexual bullying is a form of bullying commonly facing teenagers.  It is a behavior that can include harassing an individual or others through comments and actions that are sexual in nature. Furthermore, sexual bullying can occur in person or online. 

The act of sexting, where sexual, nude or semi-nude images are exchanged electronically, has become a recent occurrence in the lives of young people, and can be a major form of sexual bullying, or cyber sexual bullying.  Approximately 20 percent of teenage boys and girls have sent a sext message…

Incitement to Disseminate Sexual Bullying Is a Discipline Offense

It is interesting that “incitement to disseminate” cyber sexual bullying is an offense covered under this subsection as a discipline offense.  

This could mean a student who did not send or take an improper picture, but rather only “incited” someone to send or take it, could receive school discipline, including suspension or expulsion.  

online sexual bullying schoool
It may be irrelevant where online sexual bullying originates- schools look at the impact on campus

Where the Online Sexual Bullying Originated May Not Matter

In recent years, schools frequently reach acts outside school grounds, activities and hours, particularly with bullying.  It used to be that online posts and things done on the weekend stayed on the weekend.

If online matters come into a school and cause a bullying environment in the school, a school may try to punish the offending student(s).

To do so, there must be a substantial disruption at school, but if there is, it may not matter where the offending act(s) occurred.  

In 2021, there was a significant narrowing of what student off campus speech can be punished by schools. Unfortunately, the most heinous off-campus, middle-of-the-night student actions to each other, may still be within the long arm of schools, depending on certain factors.

Students beware.

Attorney Michelle Ball assists students when they are being disciplined for bullying and assists with preventing bullying. She stretches from Sacramento California across the state to Monterey, Gilroy, Burbank, Clovis, Shasta, wherever school issues may arise.