An existing California law that gives school officials the right to suspend or expel a student for bullying another student over the Internet or by other electronic means has been updated to include bullying others through social networking websites.
The bill, AB 746, sponsored by Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose) goes into effect Jan. 1, after it was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday.
“My hope is that the conversation will be more about what will happen to you if you engage in bullying on social networks,” said Campos.
The assemblywoman’s bill essentially tweaks AB 86, sponsored by then-Assemblyman and now state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) that became law in 2009. That legislation addressed all forms of cyberbullying, including those from cell phones, computers or websites. However, social networking websites were not explicitly addressed in AB 86, and Campos said they have only grown in popularity since.
The new law provides clarity, she said.
“It’s a technicality, but it’s an important one,” said Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer. “This adds on to existing law and makes it clear.”
The nonprofit’s education programs and policy efforts seek to empower young people, parents and educators to become knowledgeable and responsible digital users.
“Clarification is never a bad thing,” agreed Marc Buller, a Santa Clara County assistant district attorney who oversees juvenile crime cases.
“Unfortunately, social networking sites have been used by young people to bully other young people.”
With the new law, he added, “there is no room for ambiguity.”
Campos said she was inspired to amend the current law after reading news stories about students who had been bullied by others through social media sites and had committed suicide.
In 2008, Del Mar High School student Amanda Brownell attempted to hang herself after what her parents and friends called a case of cyberbullying. She has been a quadriplegic since the incident, said her mother Ann Brownell, who was aware of the new law on Monday, though not entirely satisfied with it.
“Expelling someone from school for bullying is not the answer,” she said, because the students can figure out a way to continue to be active online. Instead, Brownell said, she would rather see a privilege, like a driver’s license, taken away from the bullies, “to give them something to think about.”
Contact Tracy Seipel at 408-275-0140.