Online and face-to-face harassment in schools requires a coordinated response from the school, parents, students, and government. In this Article, I address a particular subset of online and face-to-face harassment, or identity-based harassment. Identity-based aggressors highlight a quality intrinsic to someone’s personhood and demean it, deprive it of value, and use it as a weapon. They attack women, racial minorities, religious minorities, and other traditionally victimized groups. And, as such, they attack not only their particular victims but also their victims’ communities. Identity-based aggressors com- mit a constitutional evil not only because their behavior interferes with victims’ access to education, their liberty to express who they are, and their right to participate in our body politic, but also because aggressors perpetuate the legitimacy of a malodorous social stigma attached to any given minority.
This Article argues that identity-based aggression need not be conflated with identity-affirming speech, both as a matter of its social effects and the First Amendment. Only a limiting liberal/libertarian approach to free speech would prevent schools from disciplining identity cyberbullies and face-to-face harassers and simultaneously force schools to silence speech that is necessary to make minorities full and equal players in education and in society as a whole. Implications of this theory are discussed.
77 Mo. L. Rev. 653 (2012)