Last night, Governor Cuomo submitted the state's first bill requiring schools to crack down on cyberbullying. The legislation, which is expected to pass this week, calls for schools to develop protocol to handle complaints made about bullying through social media, emails, text messages and other technology-based forms of harassment, all of which have ratcheted up significantly in the 21st century.
Though the bill does not make cyberbullying a crime, it does define it as "harassment, insults, taunting and threats through social media". The bill requires school districts to become more involved in preventing cyber abuse, creating curriculums focusing on safe internet use and etiquette, as well as designating a specific official to deal with investigations into cyber attacks on students. It also requires schools to work with police officers "when appropriate". "Cyberbullying is a new and especially insidious form of bullying," Cuomo wrote in support of the legistlation. "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.”
A number of cyberbullying bills have been introduced after a recent rash of suicides and other tragedies, like that of Staten Island teen Amanda Cummings, who stepped in front of a bus last winter after reportedly being bullied online. The legislation will be voted on by the end of this week.