Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation to Help Protect Students from Cyberbullying

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation this week intended to help protect students from cyberbullying as well as other forms of harassment, bullying, and discrimination.

The new law is designed to beef up a school’s response to harassment and bullying through increased reporting, investigation, intervention, training and prevention. Cuomo said the law requires schools to deal with “harmful behavior” and establishes “improved training” to help teachers and administrators better prevent and respond to bullying and other harmful acts.

“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,” Governor 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. I commend Majority Leader Skelos, Speaker Silver, the bill sponsors, and the many advocates who worked hard in helping put this comprehensive bill together.”

The Governor’s Office released statistics which indicated that in 2009, more than 7 million U.S. students ages 12-18 – representing 28 percent of all students in that age range – were bullied at school and more than 1.5 million students — 6 percent – were subject to cyberbullying on or off school property. A 2011 survey of New York high school students revealed that, during the previous year, nearly 18 percent had been bullied on school property and 16 percent had experienced cyberbullying through e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, Web sites, texting or other electronic means.

The new law increases enforcement tactics against cyberbullying through the following provisions:

Requires Schools to Act When Cyberbullying Occurs

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 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 new law goes into effect on July 1, 2013.