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Erie County legislators propose cyber-bullying laws in wake of teen’s suicide

Jamey Rodemeyer

Jamey Rodemeyer

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Tired of waiting for Albany lawmakers to toughen the state’s anti-bullying laws, two Erie County legislators have proposed making cyber-bullying a misdemeanor.

Residents will have a chance to air their opinions on the local law proposed by Republican Legislators Edward A. Rath III and Raymond W. Walter during a public hearing Thursday in Old County Hall.

Jamey Rodemeyer

The proposal, introduced in response to the death of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, would make instances of cyber-bullying an unclassified misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.

“We need to do everything we can to protect our vulnerable residents of Erie County, and that includes children,” Rath said. “For a long time, we’ve been waiting for New York State to do something on the cyber-bullying issue. We can’t wait any longer.”

Rath and Walter modeled the proposed law after similar legislation passed last year in Albany, Rensselaer and Suffolk counties.

The Erie County proposal would define cyber-bullying as “acts of abusive behavior over a period of time” sent electronically or mechanically that include “taunting; threatening; intimidating; insulting; tormenting; humiliating; disseminating embarrassing or sexually explicit photographs, either actual or modified, of a minor; disseminating the private, personal or sexual information, either factual or false, of a minor; or sending hate mail.”

The proposal would have to be passed by the Legislature and signed by Erie County Executive Chris Collins to become law.

Jamey, a Williamsville North High School freshman, committed suicide in September after complaining about being bullied for years.

Rath said he hopes placing sanctions on cyber-bullying outside of school would help deter the type of bullying that led to Jamey’s death.

The Niagara County Legislature also is considering making cyber-bullying a misdemeanor.

The Erie County Legislature will hold its public hearing at 9:30 a. m. Thursday.

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