The New York State Senate approved a bill Monday that legally defines bullying to include digital and in-person harassment, either on- or off-campus. An expansion of the 2010 Dignity for All Students Act, the bill attempts to alter state education law by making cyberbullying illegal, although no criminal punishment would be attached. The bill needs approval from the State Assembly by Thursday, the end of the legislative year, for it to take effect.
More than 30 states have enacted measures against cyberbullying, but New York’s crackdown would be among the toughest, as schools will be required to appoint staff members to investigate and mediate cyberbullying threats. In addition, each school will need to create its own procedure for responding to cyberbullying before the bill becomes law in July 2013.
Cyberbullying has grabbed the attention of New York lawmakers after several high-profile suicides, including 15-year-old Staten Island resident Amanda Diane Cummings, that are believed to have been caused by digital and in-person harassment. According to the National Center for Crime Prevention, 43 percent of teenagers reported being the victims of cyberbullying in 2009.
You can track the bill’s progress on the New York State Assembly website.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.