Should Bullying Be a Crime?

The suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince made national headlines. Since her death, nine of her classmates at South Haldey High School in Massachusetts have been indicted on charges including criminal harassment and violation of civil rights. But should bullying itself be made a crime? Massachusetts lawmakers are considering it, having already enacted civil anti-bullying legislation. Boston Phoenix columnist Harvey Silvergate says it’s a terrible idea. Aside from the fact that the bullies are already being convicted under existing laws, he writes that “in trying to curb schoolyard and online bullying, legislators would run afoul of constitutional principles—including free-speech protections—by over-criminalizing the sometimes-messy exchanges that mark free society.”