Cyberbullying is becoming more and more prevalent. From kids getting together on Facebook to "kick a ginger," to bullies posting videos of their attacks, we have a whole new world of brutality for kids to worry about. While that may be the state of the internet, what exactly are states doing to protect our children?
In 2007, the Arkansas legislation passed a law allowing school officials to take action against cyber bullies even if the bullying did not originate or take place on school property. The law gave school administrators much more freedom to punish those individuals who sought to harass their fellow students.
2006 saw Idaho lawmakers pass a law that allowed school officials to suspend students if they bullied or harassed other students using a telephone or computer.
Iowa has passed several laws that force schools to create anti-cyberbullying policies which cover bullying "in schools, on school property or at any school function or school-sponsored activity."
New Jersey has always maintained tough laws about bullying, but it wasn't until 2007 that the laws were amended to include bullying via "electronic communication." These laws give additional power to the school system to enforce bullying-related punishment for actions that may not take place while on school grounds.
The laws passed in recent years in Oregon expand the boundaries of what constitutes cyberbullying to include those actions which "substantially interfere" with the education of the young person.
The suicide of a 13-year old girl Megan Meier who was the victim of an internet hoax greatly raised the awareness of cyberbullying and its consequences in the state of Missouri. Missouri has also toughened their laws on the matter, upgrading cyber-harassment from a misdemeanor to a Class D felony.
New York created a system to investigate claims of cyberbullying that would help police and school officials better ascertain the circumstances of each occurrence and prosecute or punish the culprits to the fullest extent of the law.
The governor of Rhode Island is currently trying to pass a bill that would force repeat cyberbullying offenders to appear in family court, where they would be charged as delinquents under the terms of the state's laws for young offenders.
Vermont has added a $500 fine for cyberbullying offenses to their already stringent laws on the matter. There is currently a bill being discussed that would increase the reach of the school's powers regarding cyberbullying when the action puts the individual's ability to learn (or health and safety) at risk.
Currently, Massachusetts is considering House Bill 483 which would require schools to have anti-bullying training and procedures in place. It would require districts to produce an annual report citing cyberbullying incidents for the state legislature and the department of primary and secondary education.
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