2012-03-15 / Editorials

First NYS law on cyberbullying should be approved

JANE CORWIN
Assemblywoman 142nd District

Bullying is a longstanding problem among school-age children in our state and throughout the nation. With the increasing accessibility of social networking and other forms of electronic communication, bullying has transformed from a predominantly schoolyard-based issue to a broader societal problem.

Here in Western New York, we are no strangers to the devastation online bullying, or cyberbullying, can cause. The tragic suicide of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer of Williamsville is one such story of the affects of cyberbullying; however, to ensure that no other child meets Jamey’s sad fate, I have authored and introduced landmark legislation that will create the crime of cyberbullying statewide. While Jamey’s family continues to raise awareness of the destruction caused by bullying and cyberbullying, as a legislator and, more important, a mother, I am honored to be able to take this small, but important, step to help advance this important cause.

The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that 28 percent of students from the ages of 12 to 18 report bullying; however, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services reports that 42 percent of children have been cyberbullied, and 35 percent have been threatened online. Research has shown that cyberbullying can often manifest into more extreme scenarios of bullying due to the perpetrator’s feelings of anonymity and lack of witnessing the effects of his or her actions.

New York State currently has no law addressing cyberbullying. My legislation, Assembly Bill 8895, gives the state a means to enforce consistent policies against bullying and harassment, including cyberbullying. Recently, with the leadership of Erie County Legislator Ed Rath, a similar bill passed the County Legislature and set the tone for a statewide practice.

Specifically, the bill creates the crime of cyberbullying as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to one-year imprisonment. Furthermore, the legislation defines cyberbullying as any repeated acts of abusive behavior communicating or causing communication to be sent by mechanical or electronic means, including posting statements on the Internet or sending messages through a computer network. Such abusive behavior includes messages that are taunting, threatening, intimidating, insulting, tormenting, humiliating, embarrassing or sexually explicit, as well as other forms of hate mail.

I encourage residents who are interested in seeing this necessary legislation enacted to contact the Assembly Education Committee chairwoman, Catherine Nolan, at nolanc@assembly.state.ny.us or by writing to her at LOB 836, Albany, NY 12248, and respectfully ask that she immediately take action to allow this important legislation to be voted on by the full Assembly.

I will continue working to help curb all forms of bullying and better ensure that our children know the consequences of their actions. Furthermore, I encourage any student who is being bullied to know that there are adults they can turn to for help: teachers, school administrators, their parents and family members, or even turn to me and my staff by emailing corwinj@assembly. state.ny.us or finding me on Facebook.

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