Former students suing Wisconsin district over discipline meted out for alleged cyberbullying incident

Three former members of the Crivitz, Wisconsin high school basketball team are suing the school district claiming school officials imposed harsher punishment on them than necessary for an alleged cyberbullying incident, says The Chippewa Herald. The former students, Victoria Neuman, Brianna Kopp, and Jenifer Kempka, were accused of  taping rauchy cellphone videos in the locker room.

In addition to the videos, Sophia Dama, a teammate, reported to her father that Neuman took a picture of her dressing in a stall and filmed Kempka dancing in a thong and placing her buttocks on Dama’s head. Her father, Mike Dama, is assistant girls basketball coach and school board president.  After Dama complained to school officials, they suspended the three students for the rest of the basketball season.

The suit also alleges that Mike Dama and his wife Kam defamed Neuman, Kopp and Kempka in remarks that included Facebook posts. In addition, they contend Sophia Dama exaggerated the incident. Allegations in the suit paint a harsh picture of a feud complete with allegations of jealousy over playing time, angry online gossip from parents and an attempt to recall  Mike Dama from the school board.

Survey data from the Cyberbullying Research Center shows an average of one out of every four middle and high school students has reported being a cyber-bullying victim between 2007 and last year. “As adults we’re role models for our kids,” said Justin Patchin, a UW-Eau Claire criminal justice professor who co-founded the Cyberbullying Research Center, which tracks cyber-bullying among adolescents nationally. “If we can’t act responsibly, how can we expect our kids to do so?”

Oconto County Circuit Judge Michael T. Judge previously dismissed the former students’ allegations that the district and the Damas intentionally inflicted emotional distress on them as well as defamation and conspiracy claims against the Damas this month.

Source: The Chippewa Herald, 2/28/16, By Todd Richmond

[Editor’s Note: In April 2015, Legal Clips summarized an article in The Dallas Morning News reporting that school administrators and school law experts in Texas are encountering difficulty disciplining students for off-campus online speech, even though the state enacted a law four years ago to combat bullying and cyberbullying in schools. “How far does the school district’s arm really reach? It just depends on the situation,” said Cristina Ruiz Blanton, a senior attorney for the Texas Association of School Boards. “It’s very case-by-case.”

The Texas Association of School Boards is an NSBA member. Christina Ruiz Blanton is a member of the NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys.]

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