Judge Tom Jacobs: Megan Meier Law to Be Tested on Middle School Students

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You may remember Megan’s story from the many news reports over the past four years. Megan Meier took her life in 2006 after being bullied online by Josh Evans, a fictitious 16-year-old. Josh befriended Megan on MySpace, flirted with her for a month and then dumped her stating, “The world would be a better place without you in it.” Thirteen-year-old Megan hanged herself in her bedroom.

At the time of Megan’s death, Missouri did not have any anti-bullying or cyberbullying laws. Soon after her suicide, it was discovered that Josh didn’t exist. He was the creation of 47-year-old Lori Drew. Lori and her 13-year-old daughter lived four doors away from Megan. Lori created a fake profile in the name of Josh Evans in an effort to see if Megan was bad-mouthing her daughter online. When nothing was discovered, Lori told Megan (through Josh) that she was mean and cruel to her friends and that he didn’t want to be friends anymore.

Missouri has since passed a cyberbullying law but it cannot be applied to this case. This is called ex post facto meaning a new law can’t be applied to an act that happened before the law was enacted.

However, the law passed in 2008 will be used in a recent bullying incident at Hardin Middle School in St. Charles, Missouri. In April, 2011, three girls and two boys (all 12 and 13 years-old) targeted a classmate at school and online. They posted a hateful rant against the girl on You Tube and Facebook. Referred to as a “hate out”, the seven-minute video included profanity and threats.

One statement got the attention of the St. Charles police. “If you get murdered, I would clap and high-five the person who did it," one of the girls announced. Charges are under consideration. In the meantime, the police recommended that the victim’s mother obtain a protective order from a court against the five students.

Obtaining a protective or restraining order is one suggestion for victims of any type of harassment or stalking. Courts across the country routinely hear cases where adults, teenagers and children seek the court’s protection against someone violating their right to be left alone. The protective order may prohibit all forms of contact, including online or by text message, at school, work or mandate a specific distance when out in the community.

Protective orders are often good for a year and, if justified, can be extended by the court for another year. The person served with the order has a right to contest it at a hearing. The judge will either keep it in place, modify it in some manner, or dismiss it. Violating a protective order may result in a finding of contempt and possible jail sentence.

This piece originally appeared in Askthejudge.info

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