Childrearing

Parents Of Bullies Beware: Court May Hold You Liable For Their Actions

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kids on laptopIf your child has been accused of bullying, you may want to make sure they’ve seen the error of their ways, or be prepared to pay up to the victim‘s family, because a Georgia court just ruled that parents can be held liable for their kid’s online actions.

Two seventh-grade students, Dustin Athearn and Melissa Snodgrass, created a fake Facebook page for a fellow student. They used an app called “Fat Face” to distort her features and then used this fake account to harass the girl, even going so far as to friend other classmates and even teachers.

Rt.com reports that according to the court documents from the Georgia Court of Appeals, “After Dustin created the account, both Dustin and Melissa added information to the unauthorized profile, which indicated inter alia, racist viewpoints and a homosexual orientation. Dustin and Melissa also caused the persona to issue invitations to become ‘Friends’ to many of Alex’s classmates, teachers, and extended family members.”

So far this story seems awful, but I wasn’t sure why the parents of these two delinquents should be liable, until I heard what happened after their kids got in trouble.

The victim’s parents found out about the page, and they rightfully went to the school to discuss the matter. Dustin and Melissa confessed to what they did, signed a statement saying they did it and were suspended from school for two days.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Even though Dustin and Melissa’s parents were notified in writing of their kid’s actions, the Facebook page remained not only up, but was active for another 11 months before Facebook finally deactivated the page. The page continued to make and accept friend requests during this time and made posts.

Rightfully pissed, the parents of the victim sued the parents of the bullies. Presiding Judge John J. Ellington recently ruled that the parents may be found legally liable for not having their kids take the page down and for their continued use of it after the parents were aware of the situation. Now that it’s been decided that the parents can be held liable, the case is headed back to court to decide if they will be determined as liable and if so, what damages they must pay to the victim.

Knowing these parents were aware of what their children were doing and the fact that they did nothing to make sure the Facebook page was taken down, I think they should be held accountable. Yes, kids have their own agendas, but a parent’s job is to discipline and help them make the right choices. I don’t think middle school kids should be running the show. I know that money won’t fix the emotional damage that the victim has endured, but if parents aren’t going to discipline their kids for the sake of being decent human beings, maybe hitting them in the wallet will do the trick.

(Image: Shutterstock)