News (USA)

New York lawmakers pass bill to crack down on cyber-bullying

ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York state legislature this week approved a bill that would require the state’s public schools to develop procedures to address complaints of email, texting and online harassment — also referred to as cyber-bullying.

This bill is expected to be signed later this week by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Cyberbullying is a new and especially insidious form of bullying,” the governor wrote in a memo of support for the legislation. “It allows bullies to do their work at a distance, outside of schools, in front of a broad audience, and sometimes under the protection of anonymity.”

Cuomo also cited research showing that cyberbullying can be linked to low self-esteem, family and academic problems, and school violence.

The measure addresses student’s off-campus internet posts giving school officials new authority to deal with the growing problem of internet based bullying and is an extension of existing New York law dealing with the issue of bullying.

The bill defines cyber-bullying as harassment, insults, taunting and threats through social media. The legislation, however, does not make cyber-bullying a criminal offense, despite a recent survey showing that 70 percent of the state’s students think it should be.

The language of the legislation grants schools authority over speech that occurs off-campus if it creates a hostile environment, a risk of a substantial disruption at school and “it is foreseeable that the conduct, threats, intimidation or abuse might reach school property.”

School districts will also have to develop preemptive measures to prevent recurrences and create age-appropriate curriculum for students from kindergarten to 12th grade on “safe, responsible use of Internet and electronic communications” as well as “civility, citizenship and character education.”

The bill also requires schools to instruct students on “safe, responsible use of the Internet and electronic communications.”

“This legislation provides school districts with the tools they need to address bullying and cyber-bullying to help ensure that the school environment is safe for all students,” said Sen. Steve Saland, one of the bill’s sponsors.

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