Bills Targeting Cyberbullying Pass State Legislature
NEW YORK—After a recent survey found more than two-thirds of New York primary school students have either witnessed cyberbullying or have been victims themselves, bills taking action against cyberbullying have since passed in both the State Assembly and Senate. The bills only now require Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature in order to become law.
Any person who knowingly cyberbullies a minor, anyone under the age of 18, under the Senate bill would be guilty of an unclassified misdemeanor and faces up to $1,000 in fines and a year in prison.
The legislation, passed June 20, defines cyberbullying as “engaging in acts of abusive behavior over a period of time by communication sent by mechanical or electronic means, posting statements on the Internet, or through a computer network.”
Equipping school districts with tools is the focus of the Assembly bill, which includes no criminal charges for cyberbullies. Tools include enabling students to report harassment and bullying, making a specific school employee in charge of receiving and dealing with such reports, and investigating any reports of harassment.
“Children cannot succeed when they fear for their safety at school, worry about being bullied or cyberbullied, or suffer discrimination and taunts,” said Assemblyman Daniel O”Donnell in a release. “Especially given the pervasive impact of social media on our kids, I offer my heartfelt praise for this expansion of the Dignity for All Students Act.”
Former Gov. David Paterson signed the Dignity for All Students Act into law in 2010, but it doesn’t take effect until July 1 this year. Watchdog group Bully Police had said one weak point of the act was the lack of a cyberbullying clause.
The statewide cyberbullying survey, which drew responses from nearly 10,000 students, was released on June 13. The survey found that more than four-fifths of students who have been victims of cyberbullies or witnessed such actions did not report the bullying to an adult. Besides some students anonymously saying they were scared of the bully or for their reputation, one eighth-grader said, “I didn’t think there was much anyone could do.”
Almost 70 percent of the surveyed students said cyberbullying should be illegal.
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