- Last Updated on 02 August 2012
- Hits: 324
New York legislators and the governor are correct when they say they have advanced the fight against the scourge of cyberbullying, the modern twist on an age-old practice that shows the destructive power of social media.
Where once a bully could intimidate only one or two victims at a time, the power of Facebook posts or other social media tools greatly expands the dangers to a much larger crowd. While a bully used to have to pose a physical threat for continued success, now a nasty streak and the ability to type are more than enough.
But the Albany leaders did not go as far as they could have in the latest session. And there is a good chance that for all the work they have done, it will not make a real difference because it poses no real threat to a real bully.
The legislation that passed the Senate and Assembly and was signed by the governor imposes dozens of new responsibilities on the state's schools. It correctly assumes that much of the cyberbullying activity it aims to curtail takes place among students and deals with school activities. But by focusing on who in the schools should do what, the law misses what should be the real targets of any such legislation, the bullies themselves.
It takes a very indirect route, requiring schools to create policies and enforce them in many specific ways. In the meantime, legislation that took a much simpler approach was approved by the Senate yet died in the Assembly. Instead of going on at length about the tasks that schools now must perform, it provided a much more simple definition and, best of all, imposed some real penalties on the bullies, making cyberbullying a misdemeanor with appropriate punishments.
The law that passed punishes schools that do not live up to these new standards and, worse yet, ignores one of the largest side effects.
Despite all the requirements for new tasks and committees and courses, the memo by the bill's sponsor says that it will have no fiscal impact.
There is no way that schools can do all that the law requires without spending a significant amount of money, money that is likely to come at the expense of other programs.
Legislators need to revisit this issue and provide both penalties for the bullies and funding for all these new requirements
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