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Online harassmentOnline Misconduct

What online interactions are considered inappropriate?

By February 13, 2023No Comments

The rise of remote learning in the last few years presents a new platform for education with new etiquette- spoken and unspoken rules about what you can say, how you can act, and what is required of you during remote classes.

One of the most serious dangers that students face is online sexual harassment. With the increased need for students to be connected with each other through the internet, the opportunity for inappropriate behaviors like cyberbullying and online stalking has increased.

Beyond intentionally malicious actions like sexual harassment, there are lots of ways for students to act carelessly and create an inappropriate environment via remote learning. In most cases, these kinds of inappropriate behaviors could potentially lead to disciplinary charges.

From experienced student defense attorney Shanlon Wu of DC Student Defense, here are the most common online interactions that students should avoid, and some potential consequences they might face if they don’t.

Online sexual harassment

Colleges and universities are serious about sexual harassment. Federal Title IX regulations require schools to combat campus sexual assault through disciplinary procedures and protections for women and other survivors of sexual assault.

Even when students participate in online classes, there are still plenty of opportunities for students to engage in behaviors that could be considered online harassment or assault. Here are a few examples, but keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Disparaging comments about a person’s gender: Sexist remarks or offensive comments about their gender identity, especially intentionally or repeatedly misgendering someone.
  • Sexual innuendos and jokes: While some students may try to pass sexual comments as “just a joke,” they can still be very harmful, unwanted, and discriminatory.
  • Online sexual advances: Making a pass at someone online can make that person feel uncomfortable in your remote learning space.
  • Online stalking: Prolonged harassment, unwanted contact, and interaction with someone online.
  • Sending pornographic content: This is one of the most common and serious offenses that someone can make on the internet. Sharing unwanted sexual content with someone is a form of harassment and assault with serious repercussions.

Other types of inappropriate behavior

While sexual harassment is one of the most serious problems that students have to face in the world of remote learning, there are plenty of other actions students might take that can create an inappropriate space.

In many of these cases, students may not have intended to cause harm, or may not have thought that their actions were inappropriate.

Regardless, it’s important to think through the full repercussions of any behavior online and consider whether everyone is taking the necessary steps to make everyone comfortable.

Here are a few examples of other inappropriate online class behaviors:

  • Unmuting/talking over someone: Because of the audio features of Zoom calls and other platforms, it’s very easy to accidentally or intentionally exclude someone from the discussion by talking over them.
  • Spamming the chat: Chats are also spaces where it can be easy to abuse the technical aspects of the discussion and make someone feel unheard or uncomfortable.
  • Direct messaging someone who doesn’t want to chat privately: Even if students have no intention of bullying or sexually harassing someone, they should respect other students’ boundaries just as they would in person. 
  • Turning on the camera when not presentable: It’s tempting to get very comfortable while on a video call, but it’s never appropriate for students to turn on their camera while not fully dressed, sitting on the toilet, or in some other inappropriate situation.
  • Commenting on someone’s appearance: This includes body shaming, sexualizing someone’s appearance, and generally making comments about the way someone else looks.

Ignoring these guidelines and engaging in inappropriate behavior in your online classes could lead to serious repercussions, including disciplinary charges from the university or even potential legal trouble.

Hire a student defense attorney in DC today

It’s a good thing that universities are taking sexual harassment seriously and trying to make students feel comfortable. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to false accusations, which can have damaging and long-lasting effects on the accused person’s life.

If you’ve been falsely accused of online sexual harassment, it’s crucial that you contact a student defense attorney immediately. DC Student Defense has the experience and knowledge to ensure your rights are respected and that the truth comes out. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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