Cyberbullying bill set for vote this week

A survey released by state Sen. Jeffrey Klein A survey released by state Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx, Westchester) found that 10,000 New York students say that cyberbullying occurs often and should be illegal. Photo Credit: Newsday.com

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ALBANY, N.Y. - The New York legislature is expected to vote on a cyberbullying bill, agreed upon by the governor and lawmakers, before the legislative session ends on Thursday.

Students in New York will learn the potentially deadly hazards of cyberbullying and school officials will be required to respond to the earliest reports of it, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders, who agreed Saturday to a bill on the subject.

The bill defines cyberbullying as harassment, insults, taunting and threats through social media. The bill won't, however, include a criminal charge that a senator had insisted last week is essential to curbing the rising harassment blamed on a string of teen suicides.

The law will require schools to designate an official responsible for prompt action on any reports of cyberbullying, according to the governor's bill released Saturday. The bill also requires schools to coordinate with police "when appropriate" and develop a strategy for dealing with cyberbullying. All present and future school officials would also be trained to detect and act on instances of cyberbullying.

Many lawmakers were opposed to creating a law that be used to prosecute teenagers. Sen. Jeffrey Klein had pushed late last week to include a criminal charge in the bill. The Democrat representing the Bronx and parts of Westchester County said New York had a chance to lead the nation in combating the growing national problem

"Preventing cyberbullying and other forms of harassment and discrimination is a top priority that is at the center of improving school performance and the guiding the personal growth of our children," Cuomo said Saturday. He said it's a key to "support a student's right to learn."

Cyberbullying and the sometimes subsequent suicide are rising even as crimes in schools are declining nationwide. The National School Safety Center reports that while the proportion of students, ages 12 to 18, who reported being bullied at school has declined from 32 to 28 percent, the proportion of those who say they are bullied online increased from 4 to 6 percent.

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The center's Ron Stephens had said "cyberbullying issue has really moved to center stage."

Some of the recent cases include the suicide of a bullied gay teenager in Western New York after offensive comments he endured online and a 15-year-old girl on Staten Island who jumped in front of a city bus two days after Christmas after she was tormented on Facebook.

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