Should New York Bullies Face Criminal Charges?


As the story now goes, 15-year-old Felicia Garcia threw herself in front of a train in Staten Island as dozens of horrified students watched on Wednesday afternoon after getting tormented by several members of her high school’s football team.

The alleged bullying followed a weekend party, at which she reportedly had sex with four football players at the same time.

Friends of the Staten Island teen tell multiple media outlets that the bullying by members of the football team was brutal — online, at school, and at the train station just before she decided to take her own life; the bullies apparently were relentless.

Outraged New Yorkers are now calling for justice — they want the bullies punished. Problem is, legally, no such punishment is available — despite Governor Andrew Cuomo signing a “cyber-bullying” bill into law earlier this year.

As we noted at the time, the bill the governor signed does little to actually prevent punks from bullying their classmates. And no law currently exists in New York that punishes people for being bullies (however, according to a July 2012, review of each state’s bullying laws, a law including criminal sanctions for convicted bullies has been proposed in the Empire State).

The bill Cuomo signed basically requires sensitivity training for bullies. 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.

The law is pretty heavy on education and awareness, 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?” That could mean pretty much anything — even something as minimal as an apology.

That said, the argument exists that bullies don’t physically push someone into a train, or off a bridge, or cause a person to harm themselves. Therefore, the bully isn’t physically responsible for someone’s death if they decide to take their own life.

That logic is part of the reason why only 12 states have laws in place that include criminal sanctions for bullying.