NY Lawmakers Pass Cyberbullying Bill
ALBANY, NY -- A bill that requires New York's school districts to develop proper protocol to deal with complaints of email, texting or online harassment- also referred to as cyberbullying- was passed by the state’s Senate and General Assembly Monday and 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 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.” However, the legislation does not make cyberbullying a specific crime, despite a recent survey showing that 70% of the state's students think it should be.
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.”
The new law stipulates that a principal, superintendent or the designee of either would be charged with receiving reports of cyberbullying. School employees who witness an incident or receive a report of an incident must notify the principal, superintendent or designee no later than one school day after first learning of it.
That person would then be responsible for overseeing a thorough investigation, and if the investigation reveals any verified harassment, bullying or discrimination, the school would be required to “take prompt actions reasonably calculated” to end the harassment.
“This legislation provides school districts with the tools they need to address bullying and cyberbullying to help ensure that the school environment is safe for all students,” said Sen. Steve Saland, one of the bill’s sponsors.