Education

Cyberbullying Bill Now A Law (That Does Very Little To Keep Punks From Bullying Kids Online)

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There’s good news and bad news for any cyber-tough-guys out there whose brand of bullying involves being a prick from behind the safety of a keyboard. The bad news: Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the much-anticipated “Cyberbullying Bill” into law this afternoon. The good news (for cyber-pricks, anyway): it doesn’t actually do a whole lot to dissuade little punks from bullying people online.

Cuomo says the new law is designed to protect students from cyberbullying by strengthening a school’s response to harassment and bullying through
“improved reporting, investigation, intervention, training and
prevention.”

We’ve read the law — unfortunately, just being an asshole (even online) still isn’t a criminal offense, and there are no specific disciplinary punishments for potential cyberbullies. So — despite the “oohs and ahhs” from elected officials — it doesn’t appear that the bill creates any real consequences for punks who want to be a jerk online. Rather, it asks that school districts use an unidentified “progressive model” to discipline offenders.

“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 says.

The new law calls for the following:

-Requires that schools act in cases of cyberbullying:

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.

-Ensures Proper Protocols Are in Place to Deal with Cyberbullying

The law 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.

Sets Training Requirements For School Employees to Help Identify and Prevent Cyberbullying

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.

As you can see, the
law seems pretty heavy on education and awareness (read: sensitivity training) and pretty light on punishing
the creeps who pick on kids over the Internet. Any talk of punishment in the law is
vague; schools must “act in cases of cyberbullying?” WTF does that even
mean? It’s even more vague in the text of the law, which you can read below.

It seems the law simply forces schools to come up with
their own punishments for cyberbullies, which it appears could be
something as lame as an apology.

If Cuomo had some cojones (and a blatant disregard for the law), he would have slipped “mandatory month in the stockade for all cyberbullies” into the new law — just to give it some teeth. Rather, it appears to be another symbolic “ho-hum” piece of legislation that doesn’t do a whole lot to tackle the actual problem.

See the full text of the new law below; it basically just sets guidelines for common sense — which, sadly, often is needed (sigh).

S T A T E O F N E W Y O R K

S. 7740 A. 10712

SENATE – ASSEMBLY

June 15, 2012

IN SENATE — Introduced by Sens. SALAND, RANZENHOFER, KLEIN — (at

request of the Governor) — read twice and ordered printed, and when

printed to be committed to the Committee on Rules

IN ASSEMBLY — Introduced by COMMITTEE ON RULES — (at request of M. of

A. O’Donnell, Nolan) — (at request of the Governor) — read once and

referred to the Committee on Education

AN ACT to amend the education law, in relation to prohibiting bullying

and cyberbullying in public schools

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM

BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1. Legislative findings and intent. In recent years, New York

state has taken steps to ensure that school pupils, teachers and other

personnel are provided with a safe and secure learning environment.

However, the legislature recognizes that egregious incidents of harass

ment, bullying and discrimination, both in person and through the use of

technology, continue to disrupt the lives and education of students

across the state, and that bullying manifests in many forms, including

through the use of technology in what is often called cyberbullying. In

today’s age of advanced technology, twenty-four hour connectivity and

social networking, students who are subjected to bullying, such as the

texting or posting of sexually derogatory comments via such social

networking sites or by other means, have no reprieve. Bullying that

begins in school follows students home every day, and has lasting

impacts on such students. Conversely, bullying through the use of tech

nology can begin away from school property.

The legislature also recognizes that most cyberbullying originates

off-campus, but nonetheless affects the school environment and disrupts

the educational process, impeding the ability of students to learn and

too often causing devastating effects on students’ health and well-be

ing.

The legislature finds it is vital to protect all students from harass

ment, bullying, cyberbullying and discrimination. In expanding the

provisions of the Dignity for All Students Act, the legislature intends

EXPLANATION–Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets

[ ] is old law to be omitted.

LBD12130-08-2

S. 7740 2 A. 10712

to give school districts tools to address these harmful acts consistent

with the emerging research in the field. Bullying, harassment and

discrimination pose a serious threat to all students, including but not

limited to students targeted because of actual or perceived race, color,

weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice,

disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex. It is imperative to

protect every student from such harm regardless of whether the student

is a member of a specific category.

S 2. Subdivision 7 of section 11 of the education law, as added by

chapter 482 of the laws of 2010, is amended and a new subdivision 8 is

added to read as follows:

7. “Harassment” AND “BULLYING” shall mean the creation of a hostile

environment by conduct or by [verbal] threats, intimidation or abuse,

INCLUDING CYBERBULLYING, that (A) has or would have the effect of unrea

sonably and substantially interfering with a student’s educational

performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical

well-being; or [conduct, verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that] (B)

reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause a student to

fear for his or her physical safety; [such conduct, verbal threats,

intimidation or abuse includes but is not limited to conduct, verbal

threats, intimidation] or [abuse] (C) REASONABLY CAUSES OR WOULD REASON

ABLY BE EXPECTED TO CAUSE PHYSICAL INJURY OR EMOTIONAL HARM TO A

STUDENT; OR (D) OCCURS OFF SCHOOL PROPERTY AND CREATES OR WOULD FORESEE

ABLY CREATE A RISK OF SUBSTANTIAL DISRUPTION WITHIN THE SCHOOL ENVIRON

MENT, WHERE IT IS FORESEEABLE THAT THE CONDUCT, THREATS, INTIMIDATION OR

ABUSE MIGHT REACH SCHOOL PROPERTY. ACTS OF HARASSMENT AND BULLYING SHALL

INCLUDE, BUT NOT BE LIMITED TO, THOSE ACTS based on a person’s actual or

perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion,

religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex. FOR

THE PURPOSES OF THIS DEFINITION THE TERM “THREATS, INTIMIDATION OR

ABUSE” SHALL INCLUDE VERBAL AND NON-VERBAL ACTIONS.

8. “CYBERBULLYING” SHALL MEAN HARASSMENT OR BULLYING AS DEFINED IN

SUBDIVISION SEVEN OF THIS SECTION, INCLUDING PARAGRAPHS (A), (B), (C)

AND (D) OF SUCH SUBDIVISION, WHERE SUCH HARASSMENT OR BULLYING OCCURS

THROUGH ANY FORM OF ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION.

S 3. Subdivision 1 of section 12 of the education law, as added by

chapter 482 of the laws of 2010, is amended to read as follows:

1. No student shall be subjected to harassment OR BULLYING by employ

ees or students on school property or at a school function; nor shall

any student be subjected to discrimination based on a person’s actual or

perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion,

religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex by

school employees or students on school property or at a school function.

Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to prohibit a denial of

admission into, or exclusion from, a course of instruction based on a

person’s gender that would be permissible under section thirty-two

hundred one-a or paragraph (a) of subdivision two of section twenty

eight hundred fifty-four of this chapter and title IX of the Education

Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. section 1681, et. seq.), or to prohibit,

as discrimination based on disability, actions that would be permissible

under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

S 4.

Section 13 of the education law, as added by chapter 482 of the

laws of 2010, is amended to read as follows:

S 13. Policies and guidelines. The board of education and the trustees

or sole trustee of every school district shall create policies, PROCE

DURES and guidelines that shall include, but not be limited to:

S. 7740 3 A. 10712

1. Policies AND PROCEDURES intended to create a school environment

that is free from [discrimination or] harassment[;], BULLYING AND

DISCRIMINATION, THAT INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO PROVISIONS WHICH:

A. IDENTIFY THE PRINCIPAL, SUPERINTENDENT OR THE PRINCIPAL’S OR SUPER

INTENDENT’S DESIGNEE AS THE SCHOOL EMPLOYEE CHARGED WITH RECEIVING

REPORTS OF HARASSMENT, BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION;

B. ENABLE STUDENTS AND PARENTS TO MAKE AN ORAL OR WRITTEN REPORT OF

HARASSMENT, BULLYING OR DISCRIMINATION TO TEACHERS, ADMINISTRATORS AND

OTHER SCHOOL PERSONNEL THAT THE SCHOOL DISTRICT DEEMS APPROPRIATE;

C. REQUIRE SCHOOL EMPLOYEES WHO WITNESS HARASSMENT, BULLYING OR

DISCRIMINATION, OR RECEIVE AN ORAL OR WRITTEN REPORT OF HARASSMENT,

BULLYING OR DISCRIMINATION, TO PROMPTLY ORALLY NOTIFY THE PRINCIPAL,

SUPERINTENDENT OR THE PRINCIPAL’S OR SUPERINTENDENT’S DESIGNEE NOT LATER

THAN ONE SCHOOL DAY AFTER SUCH SCHOOL EMPLOYEE WITNESSES OR RECEIVES A

REPORT OF HARASSMENT, BULLYING OR DISCRIMINATION, AND TO FILE A WRITTEN

REPORT WITH THE PRINCIPAL, SUPERINTENDENT OR THE PRINCIPAL OR SUPER

INTENDENT’S DESIGNEE NOT LATER THAN TWO SCHOOL DAYS AFTER MAKING SUCH

ORAL REPORT;

D. REQUIRE THE PRINCIPAL, SUPERINTENDENT OR THE PRINCIPAL’S OR SUPER

INTENDENT’S DESIGNEE TO LEAD OR SUPERVISE THE THOROUGH INVESTIGATION OF

ALL REPORTS OF HARASSMENT, BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION, AND TO ENSURE

THAT SUCH INVESTIGATION IS COMPLETED PROMPTLY AFTER RECEIPT OF ANY WRIT

TEN REPORTS MADE UNDER THIS SECTION;

E. REQUIRE THE SCHOOL, WHEN AN INVESTIGATION REVEALS ANY SUCH VERIFIED

HARASSMENT, BULLYING OR DISCRIMINATION, TO TAKE PROMPT ACTIONS REASON

ABLY CALCULATED TO END THE HARASSMENT, BULLYING OR DISCRIMINATION, ELIM

INATE ANY HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT, CREATE A MORE POSITIVE SCHOOL CULTURE AND

CLIMATE, PREVENT RECURRENCE OF THE BEHAVIOR, AND ENSURE THE SAFETY OF

THE STUDENT OR STUDENTS AGAINST WHOM SUCH HARASSMENT, BULLYING OR

DISCRIMINATION WAS DIRECTED. SUCH ACTIONS SHALL BE CONSISTENT WITH THE

GUIDELINES CREATED PURSUANT TO SUBDIVISION FOUR OF THIS SECTION;

F. PROHIBIT RETALIATION AGAINST ANY INDIVIDUAL WHO, IN GOOD FAITH,

REPORTS, OR ASSISTS IN THE INVESTIGATION OF, HARASSMENT, BULLYING OR

DISCRIMINATION;

G. INCLUDE A SCHOOL STRATEGY TO PREVENT HARASSMENT, BULLYING AND

DISCRIMINATION;

H. REQUIRE THE PRINCIPAL TO MAKE A REGULAR REPORT ON DATA AND TRENDS

RELATED TO HARASSMENT, BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION TO THE SUPERINTEN

DENT;

I. REQUIRE THE PRINCIPAL, SUPERINTENDENT OR THE PRINCIPAL’S OR SUPER

INTENDENT’S DESIGNEE, TO NOTIFY PROMPTLY THE APPROPRIATE LOCAL LAW

ENFORCEMENT AGENCY WHEN SUCH PRINCIPAL, SUPERINTENDENT OR THE PRINCI

PAL’S OR SUPERINTENDENT’S DESIGNEE, BELIEVES THAT ANY HARASSMENT, BULLY

ING OR DISCRIMINATION CONSTITUTES CRIMINAL CONDUCT;

J. INCLUDE APPROPRIATE REFERENCES TO THE PROVISIONS OF THE SCHOOL

DISTRICT’S CODE OF CONDUCT ADOPTED PURSUANT TO SECTION TWENTY-EIGHT

HUNDRED ONE OF THIS CHAPTER THAT ARE RELEVANT TO HARASSMENT, BULLYING

AND DISCRIMINATION;

K. REQUIRE EACH SCHOOL, AT LEAST ONCE DURING EACH SCHOOL YEAR, TO

PROVIDE ALL SCHOOL EMPLOYEES, STUDENTS AND PARENTS WITH A WRITTEN OR

ELECTRONIC COPY OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT’S POLICIES CREATED PURSUANT TO

THIS SECTION, OR A PLAIN-LANGUAGE SUMMARY THEREOF, INCLUDING NOTIFICA

TION OF THE PROCESS BY WHICH STUDENTS, PARENTS AND SCHOOL EMPLOYEES MAY

REPORT HARASSMENT, BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION. THIS SUBDIVISION SHALL

NOT BE CONSTRUED TO REQUIRE ADDITIONAL DISTRIBUTION OF SUCH POLICIES AND

S. 7740 4 A. 10712

GUIDELINES IF THEY ARE OTHERWISE DISTRIBUTED TO SCHOOL EMPLOYEES,

STUDENTS AND PARENTS;

L. MAINTAIN CURRENT VERSIONS OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT’S POLICIES CREATED

PURSUANT TO THIS SECTION ON THE SCHOOL DISTRICT’S INTERNET WEBSITE, IF

ONE EXISTS;

2. Guidelines to be used in school training programs to discourage the

development of [discrimination or] harassment, BULLYING AND DISCRIMI

NATION, AND TO MAKE SCHOOL EMPLOYEES AWARE OF THE EFFECTS OF HARASSMENT,

BULLYING, CYBERBULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION ON STUDENTS and that are

designed:

a. to raise the awareness and sensitivity of school employees to

potential [discrimination or] harassment, BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION,

and

b. to enable employees to prevent and respond to [discrimination or]

harassment, BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION; and

3. Guidelines relating to the development of nondiscriminatory

instructional and counseling methods, and requiring that at least one

staff member at every school be thoroughly trained to handle human

relations in the areas of race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic

group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation,

gender, and sex[.]; AND

4. GUIDELINES RELATING TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF MEASURED, BALANCED AND

AGE-APPROPRIATE RESPONSES TO INSTANCES OF HARASSMENT, BULLYING OR

DISCRIMINATION BY STUDENTS, WITH REMEDIES AND PROCEDURES FOLLOWING A

PROGRESSIVE MODEL THAT MAKE APPROPRIATE USE OF INTERVENTION, DISCIPLINE

AND EDUCATION, VARY IN METHOD ACCORDING TO THE NATURE OF THE BEHAVIOR,

THE DEVELOPMENTAL AGE OF THE STUDENT AND THE STUDENT’S HISTORY OF PROB

LEM BEHAVIORS, AND ARE CONSISTENT WITH THE DISTRICT’S CODE OF CONDUCT;

AND

5. TRAINING REQUIRED BY THIS SECTION SHALL ADDRESS THE SOCIAL PATTERNS

OF HARASSMENT, BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION, AS DEFINED IN SECTION ELEVEN

OF THIS ARTICLE, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THOSE ACTS BASED ON A

PERSON’S ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RACE, COLOR, WEIGHT, NATIONAL ORIGIN,

ETHNIC GROUP, RELIGION, RELIGIOUS PRACTICE, DISABILITY, SEXUAL ORIEN

TATION, GENDER OR SEX, THE IDENTIFICATION AND MITIGATION OF HARASSMENT,

BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION, AND STRATEGIES FOR EFFECTIVELY ADDRESSING

PROBLEMS OF EXCLUSION, BIAS AND AGGRESSION IN EDUCATIONAL SETTINGS.

S 5.

Section 14 of the education law, as added by chapter 482 of the

laws of 2010, is amended to read as follows:

S 14. Commissioner’s responsibilities. The commissioner shall:

1. Provide direction, which may include development of model policies

and, to the extent possible, direct services, to school districts

related to preventing [discrimination and] harassment, BULLYING AND

DISCRIMINATION and to fostering an environment in every school where all

children can learn free of manifestations of bias;

2. Provide grants, from funds appropriated for such purpose, to local

school districts to assist them in implementing the guidelines set forth

in this section; [and]

3. Promulgate regulations to assist school districts in implementing

this article including, but not limited to, regulations to assist school

districts in developing measured, balanced, and age-appropriate

responses to violations of this policy, with remedies and procedures

[focusing on] FOLLOWING A PROGRESSIVE MODEL THAT MAKE APPROPRIATE USE OF

intervention, DISCIPLINE and education[.] AND PROVIDE GUIDANCE RELATED

TO THE APPLICATION OF REGULATIONS; AND

S. 7740 5 A. 10712

4. PROVIDE GUIDANCE AND EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS TO SCHOOL DISTRICTS

RELATED TO BEST PRACTICES IN ADDRESSING CYBERBULLYING AND HELPING FAMI

LIES AND COMMUNITIES WORK COOPERATIVELY WITH SCHOOLS IN ADDRESSING

CYBERBULLYING, WHETHER ON OR OFF SCHOOL PROPERTY OR AT OR AWAY FROM A

SCHOOL FUNCTION.

5. THE COMMISSIONER SHALL PRESCRIBE REGULATIONS THAT SCHOOL PROFES

SIONALS APPLYING ON OR AFTER JULY FIRST, TWO THOUSAND THIRTEEN FOR A

CERTIFICATE OR LICENSE, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO A CERTIFICATE OR

LICENSE VALID FOR SERVICE AS A CLASSROOM TEACHER, SCHOOL COUNSELOR,

SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST, SCHOOL SOCIAL WORKER, SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR OR

SUPERVISOR OR SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS SHALL, IN ADDITION TO ALL OTHER

CERTIFICATION OR LICENSING REQUIREMENTS, HAVE COMPLETED TRAINING ON THE

SOCIAL PATTERNS OF HARASSMENT, BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION, AS DEFINED

IN SECTION ELEVEN OF THIS ARTICLE, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THOSE

ACTS BASED ON A PERSON’S ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RACE, COLOR, WEIGHT,

NATIONAL ORIGIN, ETHNIC GROUP, RELIGION, RELIGIOUS PRACTICE, DISABILITY,

SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER OR SEX, THE IDENTIFICATION AND MITIGATION OF

HARASSMENT, BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION, AND STRATEGIES FOR EFFECTIVELY

ADDRESSING PROBLEMS OF EXCLUSION, BIAS AND AGGRESSION IN EDUCATIONAL

SETTINGS.

S 6.

Section 15 of the education law, as added by chapter 482 of the

laws of 2010, is amended to read as follows:

S 15. Reporting by commissioner. The commissioner shall create a

procedure under which material incidents of [discrimination and] harass

ment, BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION on school grounds or at a school func

tion are reported to the department at least on an annual basis. Such

procedure shall provide that such reports shall, wherever possible, also

delineate the specific nature of such incidents of [discrimination or]

harassment, BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION, provided that the commissioner

may comply with the requirements of this section through use of the

existing uniform violent incident reporting system. In addition the

department may conduct research or undertake studies to determine

compliance throughout the state with the provisions of this article.

S 7.

Section 16 of the education law, as added by chapter 482 of the

laws of 2010, is amended to read as follows:

S 16. Protection of people who report [discrimination or] harassment,

BULLYING OR DISCRIMINATION. Any person having reasonable cause to

suspect that a student has been subjected to [discrimination or] harass

ment, BULLYING OR DISCRIMINATION, by an employee or student, on school

grounds or at a school function, who, acting reasonably and in good

faith, [either] reports such information to school officials, to the

commissioner[,] or to law enforcement authorities, ACTS IN COMPLIANCE

WITH PARAGRAPH E OR I OF SUBDIVISION ONE OF SECTION THIRTEEN OF THIS

ARTICLE, or otherwise initiates, testifies, participates or assists in

any formal or informal proceedings under this article, shall have immu

nity from any civil liability that may arise from the making of such

report or from initiating, testifying, participating or assisting in

such formal or informal proceedings, and no school district or employee

shall take, request or cause a retaliatory action against any such

person who, acting reasonably and in good faith, either makes such a

report or initiates, testifies, participates or assists in such formal

or informal proceedings.

S 8.

Section 801-a of the education law, as amended by chapter 482 of

the laws of 2010, is amended to read as follows:

S 801-a. Instruction in civility, citizenship and character education.

The regents shall ensure that the course of instruction in grades

S. 7740 6 A. 10712

kindergarten through twelve includes a component on civility, citizen

ship and character education. Such component shall instruct students on

the principles of honesty, tolerance, personal responsibility, respect

for others, WITH AN EMPHASIS ON DISCOURAGING ACTS OF HARASSMENT, BULLY

ING, DISCRIMINATION, observance of laws and rules, courtesy, dignity and

other traits which will enhance the quality of their experiences in, and

contributions to, the community. SUCH COMPONENT SHALL INCLUDE INSTRUC

TION OF SAFE, RESPONSIBLE USE OF THE INTERNET AND ELECTRONIC COMMUNI

CATIONS. The regents shall determine how to incorporate such component

in existing curricula and the commissioner shall promulgate any regu

lations needed to carry out such determination of the regents. For the

purposes of this section, “tolerance,” “respect for others” and “digni

ty” shall include awareness and sensitivity to [discrimination or]

harassment, BULLYING, DISCRIMINATION and civility in the relations of

people of different races, weights, national origins, ethnic groups,

religions, religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexual

orientations, genders, and sexes.

S 9. This act shall take effect July 1, 2013; provided, however, that

if chapter 482 of the laws of 2010 shall not have taken effect on or

before such date then this act shall take effect on the same date and in

the same manner as such chapter of the laws of 2010 takes effect.

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