Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into law legislation he says will help protect students from cyberbullying and other forms of harassment.
The passage late last month of an amendment to the gives school administrators tools to protect students from cyberbullying, granting them the authority to investigate all online and Internet-based harassment, bullying and discrimination. The law goes into effect July 1, 2013.
"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 said. "Under this new law, schools will play an important role—working with families, communities and law enforcement—to prevent harassment, bullying and discrimination, and to support a student's right to learn."
The measure requires schools to develop policies around cyberbullying and provide education and training to students and staff on bullying prevention. The Brewster Central School District .
What's different about the new law is that victims and their parents will now have the ability to report incidents that take place off-property to a school-appointed official, when they deem the cyberbullying impedes a student’s ability to learn.
The new legislation was part of the agenda at a roundtable discussion hosted by New York School Boards Association Director Timothy Kremmer in Latham last week. Brewster Board of Education President Dr. Stephen Jambor was in attendance.
“No one is opposed to the need to protect our children from this threat,” he told Patch. “We are worried about how the role and function of the public schools is always expanding, perhaps because there are fewer other reliable supports left in society … We are also being asked at times to police things that are practically unenforceable."
Jambor said that previous legislation was “already designed to broadly address the well-being/security of children in school.” He referenced this column in the Huffington Post. Written by David A. Singer, a Board of Education trustee in Harrison, the July 3 piece focuses on a bill that deals with the placement of special education students.
In the blog, Singer makes note of “reams of unfunded state mandates that demand that our public schools become parent, cop, nursemaid, chauffeur, shrink, social worker, nutritionist, physician, personal trainer, godfather, and oh yeah, teacher, to our kids” while staying under the 2 percent property tax cap.
“We are certainly not lacking in getting the idea about these needs,” Jambor said. “Nonetheless, we are more and more lacking on having the means for implementing these directives. It is more than just ironic; it is indeed paradoxical that these items end up on our plate at a time when we are cutting teaching positions in order to fit under the tax cap. We simply cannot be all the things that they want us to be and be able to afford it all within the given economic restraints.”
Lawmakers say the intent was not to make it more onerous for school districts to handle bullying issues.
"We are asking schools to exercise their good judgment, look into incidents both on and off campus where it affects the child's ability to learn—to do due diligence. And when it elevates to the level of police involvement, make the call," said Assemblyman Robert Castelli (R-Goldens Bridge), who voted in favor of the legislation.
Castelli, a 22-year veteran of law enforcement, told Patch the law was necessary to address a new form of harassment that happens far too frequently and causes tragic incidents, such as the suicide of former Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi. Clementi's story was also part of the focus of , written by a Southeast business owner.
More than 30 states have approved measures against cyberbullying, but New York's crackdown is among the toughest. The law stops short of criminalizing cyberbullying but is one of few states to cover off-grounds behaviors.