A Word from the Legal Team on Online Threats

Make sure you know what recourse is possible

There is a much under-used provision of the law when it comes to online threats made by students. While it only applies in situations where there is a threat of bodily harm, it applies to threats made online, in email, or on social media.

MSEA’s legal team increasingly receives complaints of students sending emails, creating social media accounts in the name of the educator, or mocking educators online. If there is no threat of bodily harm, it is probably a violation of school system policy particularly if it causes disruption at school. If the communication contains a threat of bodily harm, then Section 26–101 of the Education Article applies as follows:

• A person may not willfully disturb or otherwise willfully prevent the orderly conduct of the activities, administration, or classes of any institution of elementary, secondary, or higher education.

• A person may not threaten with bodily harm any employee of any institution of elementary, secondary, or higher education at home by any means, including in person, by telephone, or by electronic mail. This prohibition applies only to threats arising out of the scope of the educator’s employment.

The law provides penalties in the form of a misdemeanor with a fine up to $2,500, imprisonment (not exceeding six months), or both. If there is a threat, the school resource officer or the police should be notified and reminded of this provision of the law.

If you feel you are being bullied or threatened by a student online or personally threatened in the work environment, including on field trips or at athletic events, which results in disruption in the classroom or school, inform your SRO and administrator immediately. It should be reported as it likely constitutes:

• A breach of school policy

• A substantial disruption in the classroom

• Bullying toward students or staff

• A threat to a safe educational environment

For more information, contact your local UniServ director for advice and guidance.