Cuomo and Legislature Sign Off on Cyber-Bullying Bill

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Bullying, both on- and offline, has been hitting headlines lately. 

The trial conviction of Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers student who webcam-ed his homosexual roommate Tyler Clementi, has developed into a major story about the horrors of pressured teasing. The documentary Bully dug deep into the psychological implications of this in-school epidemic. And, just last week, Jessica Lussenhop, a contributing writer to the Voice, wrote a front-page tell-all about gay bullying in school.

So, thankfully this afternoon, Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature have come to an agreement on a bill that will attempt to effectively fight back the growing danger of cyber-bulling in our schools. The bill long in the works was submitted late last night by the Governor and Albany is looking to pass it by June 21st, which marks the end of the regular session before summer break. 

If that's the case, the bill will implement a system that would go into effect at the start of the school year. Here's what it would include:

For starters, the bill defines cyber-bulling as "harassment, insults, taunting and threats through social media," according to the Connecticut Post. That includes Facebook tormenting, e-mail abuse, Twitter feuds and any other computer-related teasing.

With that being said, schools would be mandated to set up a protocol that deals with instances of the act and administrative officials, both now and in the future, would be forced to take workshops in helping children who have been affected by cyber-bullying.

Also, if the bill is passed, children in every grade throughout elementary, middle and high school would be taught an "age-appropriate" curriculum about the Internet and how to act civil towards one another on social networks. The only piece that was taken out of the bill was a criminal charge for the teenagers involved in cyber-bullying; the legislation, instead, seeks a way to avoid it rather than penalize students for committing it. 

(Regardless, 70% of students think it should be considered a crime.)

To justify the bill, Albany politicians localized the national issue: two days after Christmas, a young teenager in Staten Island jumped in front of a bus after being harassed on Facebook. Akin to that example is another story of a gay teenager from Western New York who committed suicide after online attacks from fellow classmates.

This bill could not have come sooner.

[jsurico15@gmail.com/@JSuricz]
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