Shame: A Different Criminal Law Proposal for Bullies
Yale Law School
March 25, 2013
Cleveland State Law Review, Vol. 61, No. 3, 2013
Public concern over bullying has reached an all-time high. The absence of a sensible criminal charging and sentencing regime for the problem recently reared its head in the highly-publicized prosecution of Dharun Ravi, who was convicted of 15 counts and faced the possibility of 10 years in prison. This Essay argues that existing criminal statutes used to address the problem, like bias intimidation and invasion of privacy, do not fit neatly with the specific wrongs of bullying. However, recently-enacted “cyberbullying” laws, which give complete discretion to school administrators, are weak and ineffective. I propose another solution: first, to criminalize the act of bullying itself, thus sending a powerful expressive message that can flip the high school and teenage norm of meanness as virtue. To reinforce that message, sentencing a bully to shaming, not imprisonment, better serves utilitarian, expressive, rehabilitative, and retributive goals specific to the wrongs of bullying.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 24
Keywords: bullying, retribution, expressive law, cyberbullying, charging, sentencing, rehabilitation
Date posted: March 26, 2013 ; Last revised: June 6, 2014