By Alex Robinson

A Whitestone cyberbully who school officials are still trying to identify will likely escape criminal charges as recent cyberbullying legislation passed in the state Legislature fell short of criminalizing online harassment.

The bill, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2012, required teachers to report any cyberbullying they witnessed to school administrators within a day. It also mandated that teachers be given training on how to recognize and deal with cyberbullying, but did not designate it as a crime.

The anonymous Whitestone cyberbully posted photos of St. Luke’s School students on Instagram in mid-May along with abusive comments under the pseudonym @StLukesIdiots.

“These kids are all ugly and fat. I’ll be posting the sixth graders that should die,” the description on the abusive account said before it was taken down.

When alerted, the school reported the incident to the NYPD, who sent officers to a workshop at the school last week to inform students about cyberbullying and its consequences.

In addition to the workshop, which was directed by a team of counselors, the targeted students in Grades 6 to 8 each received direct counseling.

A spokeswoman for the Brooklyn Diocese, which runs the school, said that as of Wednesday the investigation was ongoing and the school believes the bully could have been one of its students.

“Cyberbullying is prohibited and will not be tolerated,” she said. “Catholic schools promote the dignity of the human person in an atmosphere where students have a safe and caring learning environment.”

She added that cyberbullying is a violation of the school’s policy against harassment, bullying and intimidation.

“Disciplinary action will be taken against the student(s) that committed the act and could include suspension or expulsion,” she said.

Devon O’Connor, president of the Welcome to Whitestone Civic Association, posted an alert about the anonymous bully on his Facebook page, urging people to report the account after he heard from terrified parents on the weekend it surfaced.

“I was completely disgusted by it,” he said.

Cyberbullying has become an important topic in recent years as the Internet and social media have provided students platforms to stay connected after they go home from school.

At least 42 percent of children have been cyberbullied and 35 percent have been threatened online, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Legislators have wrestled with a solution to the problem. State Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), who heads the Independent Democratic Conference, introduced a bill in 2011 that would widen third-degree stalking to include cyberbullying, but the legislation stalled in the state Assembly.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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