A New Jersey high school student's lawsuit is reigniting debate over whether an anti-bullying law restricts free speech.

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Inside the Law: Anti-Bullying Versus Free Speech

November 09, 2018 - 5:30 am
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By Amy E. Feldman, Judge Technology Solutions

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A New Jersey high school student's lawsuit is reigniting debate over whether an anti-bullying law restricts free speech.  

School districts across the country have implemented anti-bullying laws to prevent the kind of harassment that has led to tragic outcomes.

New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, one of the nation's toughest, defines bullying as harassment, intimidation and bullying that is one-sided and has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student and that leads to physical or emotional harm. 

When a high school student referred to a fictional police officer as "pig" during class discussions, she was issued a one-day in school suspension, as the school said it was a term that was an epithet which was offensive to another student whose father is a police officer. 

She filed a lawsuit, claiming that the term she used isn't disruptive, vulgar or rude and that the law itself is flawed because it prohibits political speech which is protected by the First Amendment. 

Where should the rights of one student to say what she wishes end and the rights of another student not to feel harassed by it begin?  

The case is now pending in federal court, so we will all await the court's guidance.