Potential Consequences for Cyberbullying – Pennsylvania Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights

Victims of cyberbullying or those accused of cyberbullying should seek an attorney for legal advice. It’s not kid’s stuff. It’s a growing issue and the state is taking it quite seriously. And parents, be forewarned, you can also be held accountable, fined and may have to submit to community services.


Within the past few months, H.B. 1778 , was introduced in Harrisburg by state Rep. Frank Burns.  Parents of school bullies could face a $750 fine and community service.

“Bullying is underreported and often unaddressed in any meaningful way,” said Burns, who introduced similar legislation in the past. “When it’s not addressed, bullying can escalate quickly from taunts and hurtful online posts to physical assaults and — in worst cases — suicide. Holding students, parents and school officials at all levels accountable is the only way to put an end to this scourge.”

Fines & Implications for Parents of Bullys

Under the Bill, schools must notify parents each time their child bullies another.

After incident #1, parents are told  of potential school action.

After incident #2,  parents  take a parenting class and attend a bullying resolution conference.

After incident #3, parents are cited, fine up to $750 and or community service.

One should look to H.B. 1779, the Pennsylvania Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, which spells out rights of: parents,  students,  schools. And look to the Safe2Say anonymous, statewide violence and bullying reporting program. 

The Bill has additional measures and requirements and will hold school administrators to follow through, with reporting requirements, monthly, to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for each verified incident of bullying or cyberbullying.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as “the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person, often done anonymously”.

It can be sending someone threats or mean messages through email, text messages, or instant message apps; sending embarrassing information about someone through electronic devices or online messaging; creating a fake profile or website to make fun of a teacher or peer; using social media to ridicule; and other forms of cruel behavior.

COVID-19 has resulted in an increased reliance on digital communication. And it continues. Fortunately, Pennsylvania does have a statute in place that defines bullying, which includes cyberbullying (internet bullying or online bullying). And now we have a Bill to further define and solidify everyone’s obligations and repercussions.

Is Cyberbullying a Crime in Pennsylvania?

The Commonwealth treats cyberbullying as a crime, and you can be arrested for cyberbullying. However, as each case is unique, the outcome may differ from one case to the next. 

And prosecution will differ between cyberbullying among students and that among adults. For students, it might be handled through the school itself, according to school policy. In response to the pervasiveness of bullying among students in Pennsylvania, the Office of Attorney General launched Safe2Say in January 2019. Safe2Say is an anonymous reporting system that enables students, teachers, school administrators, and others to submit, anonymously, tips over the phone, online, or through the Safe2Say Something mobile app. 

What is Pennsylvania Act 26?

The Act that determined that cyber-harassment is a criminal law.

The offense of “cyberharassment,” which would include: making seriously disparaging statements about a child’s physical characteristics, sexuality, sexual activity, mental or physical health, threats to inflict harm.

This could be direct, or  electronically or through social media.

It is a third-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $2,500 fine and/or one year in prison.

Pennsylvania requires that school policy contain disciplinary consequences and may include acts that occur outside of school settings if other statutory requirements are met. The Pennsylvania Department of Education must review each school’s anti-cyberbullying policy. 

Cyberbullying: Legal Punishment

Civil or Criminal Case?

Cyberbullying can be both. If someone is threatening your safety, ruining your reputation, or intimidating you through the internet or the use of a mobile phone — or you’ve been accused of doing any of these acts ­— a civil suit or a criminal prosecution may be pursued. For a civil case, find an attorney who specializes in harassment, defamation of character, infliction of emotional distress, and possible other causes of action. For a criminal case, of course you would need an attorney that handles criminal matters to include criminal harassment, stalking, hate crimes.

Cyberbullying can be complicated. Our attorneys can determine whether general statutes or school policies apply to your case and whether to pursue a criminal and or a civil case.

Our legal team can help you navigate the law as it applies to cyberbullying. For civil cases connect with Gabriella H. Farhat and connect with Dan Bardo for criminal. Call Pyfer Reese Straub Gray & Farhat, PC 24/7 at (717) 299-7342 to learn more about how we can help, or make an online inquiry today.


The content presented in this article/blog is intended solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or guidance. It is essential to understand that this information is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal direction. For personalized legal advice pertinent to your specific circumstances, we strongly encourage booking a consultation with one of our experienced professionals. Pyfer Reese Straub Gray & Farhat, PC and its team members expressly disclaim any liability for actions taken or not taken based on the information provided in this article.