Worse Than A Trip To The Principal’s Office

I heard an interesting story on Morning Edition this morning. It seems that North Carolina passed a law recently that makes it a crime for students to “intimidate or torment” a teacher online. The story focuses on one North Carolina teacher who thought about pursuing a case against a student who created a false Twitter profile of the teacher. And the profile wasn’t nice – according to the profile, the teacher was a violent drug addict. But should it be a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by a $1000 fine and up to a month in jail? My wife’s a teacher, so I have exactly zero sympathy for the punk that created this profile. But I might have a lot of sympathy for another classmate who airs a legitimate grievance. And the law is written broadly enough to potentially sweep that kid in. In fact, the law prohibits the very act of “building a fake profile.” But should that be illegal? What if the student wants to use parody to poke fun at a teacher? Shouldn’t he be able to do that without a threat of criminal prosecution? I know North Carolina generally enjoys pretty mild weather, but this statute has too much of a chilling effect for my taste.