December 28, 2011
The measure was prompted after the tragic suicide of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer of Williamsville, New York. Rodemeyer had long been a target of cyber-bullying.
“Bullying is a long-standing problem among school-aged children in New York State, and throughout the nation. With the increasing accessibility of electronic means of communication, bullying has transformed from a predominantly school-based issue to a broader societal problem,” Corwin said in a news release. “Jamey’s story shocked our community – and other small communities across the nation – to its very core, and we cannot allow cyber-bullying to continue without penalty. We must take a firm stand against this destructive and devastating behavior.”
The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that 28 percent of students from the ages of 12 to 18 report bullying; however, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services reports that 42 percent of children have been cyber-bullied, and 35 percent have been threatened online. Research shows that cyber-bullying can often manifest into more extreme scenarios of bullying due to the perpetrator’s feelings of anonymity and lack of witnessing the effects of their actions.
New York State currently has no law addressing cyber-bullying. Corwin’s new legislation, Assembly Bill 8895, gives the state a means to enforce consistent policies against bullying and harassment, including cyber-bullying.
Specifically, the bill creates the crime of cyber-bullying as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to one year imprisonment. Furthermore, the legislation defines cyber-bullying as any repeated acts of abusive behavior communicating or causing communication to be sent by mechanical or electronic means, including posting statements on the Internet, or sending messages through a computer network. Such abusive behavior includes messages that are taunting, threatening, intimidating, insulting, tormenting, humiliating, embarrassing or sexually explicit, as well as other forms of hate mail.