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.
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.”
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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.
Reprinted by permission.