By Marc Kovac
Teachers and principals would have more power to punish students for harassing or intimidating other students through Facebook or other electronic means during after-school hours under legislation being considered by state lawmakers.
Senate Bill 127, sponsored by Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd, is aimed at preventing cyber-bullying — that is, bullying done over the Internet or through electronic devices such as cellphones.
“In current Ohio law, school boards are required to address and train teachers to recognize some forms of harassment, but cyber-bullying is a new form of bullying — one that cannot be addressed solely by a school cellphone ban,” Schiavoni said. “This bill makes a few simple changes to the … [law] that will lead to long-term improvements to students’ lives across our state.”
Schiavoni offered sponsored testimony on the bill Tuesday before the Senate’s Education Committee. Comparable legislation also is making its way through the Ohio House.
The bill is being called the Jessica Logan Act, after a teen who committed suicide in July 2008 after being subjected to online bullying.
Among other provisions, the legislation would require schools to include cyber-bullying in their anti-harassment policies and to train teachers and staff to better understand how to handle the issue.
It also would prohibit “harassment, intimidation and bullying that substantially disrupts the educational environment and discipline of the school, which would include bullying that takes place off school grounds,” Schiavoni said. “Also, it adds the school bus as a location where harassment can be disciplined.”
Schiavoni said he does-n’t think schools should be blamed for students’ behavior outside of school buildings, but they should deal with cyber-bullying if they’re aware it’s going on.