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Stockton Students Say New Social Media Policy Impedes On 1st Amendment Rights

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STOCKTON (CBS13) – Stockton students say their First Amendment rights are being violated by the school district’s new social media policy fighting cyberbullying.

Bear Creek High School students say not only is the policy unfair, it is unconstitutional because it limits what the teens can post on the web.

Students can’t wait to add their name to a circulating petition, because they are being forced to sign the school’s new policy.

“In my hand I have at least 300 signatures,” said junior Jacob Williams.

“It’s forcing you to sign it without forcing you to sign it,” said junior Sabrina Foster of the new policy.

Students have no choice but to agree to a mandated social media contract if they want to join a school club or play a sport.

“As of right now, they have to sign that contract in order to participate,” said Bear Creek High School Principal Bill Atterberry.

That contract has three key rules addressing what is not acceptable to post online. Students are prohibited from posting profane or inappropriate remarks, creating serious danger of another student, and engaging in cyberbullying.

The policy goes even farther, saying students don’t even have to type out profanity or make a threat. Just a click of the mouse or tap on their phone can get them suspended as well.

“Hold students accountable to not liking a bullying statement on Facebook, not re-tweeting a bullying statement, or do anything that would be considered bullying,” said Atterberry.

However, students say the contract goes beyond bullying.

“The reason was to stop cyberbullying, but it’s covering that anything we talk about or anything we say about anyone could be interpreted,” said Foster.

Lawyers for the school district approved the language, but students say they will fight and take it to the Lodi Unified School Board.

“We want to send them a message,” said Williams. “We want to let them know that this is entirely intolerable.”

School administrators say they are not actively monitoring the student’s pages, but will address cyberbullying if brought to their attention.

“Look at all the schools where students say they were bullied. Look at the people that have committed suicide because of bullying. It’s not something we can ignore,” said Atterberry.

But these protests are not about bullying, students claim the contract goes too far and targets the wrong students.

“The people that are joining sports and clubs, those are people that are wanting colleges to look at them versus the people that would actually be doing this,” said Foster.

The school says they have the legal right as sports and clubs are optional.

“From our point of view, our lawyers say that it’s constitutional,” said Atterberry.

Elk Grove and Sacramento City Unified School Districts do not have such contracts; but if students are caught bullying online, the police can and will get involved, which may lead to more than just a game suspension.

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