New Law Takes on Cyberbullying In New York

Requires Schools Statewide To Take Action

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation on Monday, July 9 tintended to help protect students from cyberbullying as well as other forms of harassment, bullying, and discrimination.

The new law is designed to strengthen a school’s response to harassment and bullying through improved reporting, investigation, intervention, training and prevention. The new law requires schools to take action when students experience cyberbullying or other forms of harassment. It ensures that school districts take immediate steps to end harmful behavior, prevent recurrences, and ensure the safety of the targeted students.

The legislation also establishes improved training to help teachers and administrators better prevent and respond to bullying and other harmful acts.

The new law goes into effect on July 1, 2013.

“We must do all we can to ensure that every child in New York State feels safe in the classroom, and this new law will help our schools create an environment that is conducive to educational success,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Under this new law, schools will play an important role- working with families, communities and law enforcement-to prevent harassment, bullying and discrimination, and to support a student’s right to learn.”

Cyberbullying is an especially harmful form of bullying. Through the use of technology, bullies are able to harass their targets at a distance, outside of schools, in front of broad audiences and sometimes under the protection of anonymity. Research has revealed a link between cyberbullying and low self-esteem, family problems, academic problems, school violence, and delinquent behavior, as well as long-term consequences that include increased depression, substance use, aggressive impulses, and school truancy.

Recent well-publicized cases involving cyberbullying-sometimes combined with other forms of bullying- have led to suicide. If left unattended, bullying can rapidly escalate into even more serious violence and abuse.

In 2009, more than 7 million U.S. students ages 12-18-representing 28 percent of all students in that age range-were bullied at school and more than 1.5 million students-6 percent-were subject to cyberbullying on or off school property. A 2011 survey of New York high school students revealed that, during the previous year, nearly 18 percent had been bullied on school property and 16 percent had experienced cyberbullying through e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, Web sites, texting or other electronic means.

The law requires that schools act in cases of cyberbullying, which may occur on or off campus, when it creates or would create a substantial risk to the school environment, substantially interferes with a student’s educational performance or mental, emotional or physical well-being, or causes a student to fear for his or her physical safety.

The law also requires school districts to put in place protocols to deal with cyberbullying, harassment, bullying and discrimination, including assignment of a school official to receive and investigate reports; prompt reporting and investigation; responsive actions to prevent recurrence of any verified bullying; coordination with law enforcement when appropriate; development of a bullying prevention strategy; and notice to all school community members of the school’s policies.

Finally, the law sets training requirements for current school employees, as well as for new teachers and administrators applying for a certificate or license, on the identification and mitigation of harassment, bullying, cyberbullying and discrimination.

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