Albany, N.Y., May 10—State Senator George Winner (R-C-I, Elmira) said today that he will co-sponsor a comprehensive legislative package being introduced in the Senate to address the rising problem of bullying in schools.
Winner noted that New York is one of only seven states without a specific law targeting school bullying. Bully Police, a national watchdog group, has given New York its lowest possible grade for not passing a law to protect schoolchildren from bullies.
“These are terrible, tragic cases where young lives are being destroyed and if there’s something we can do to help stop it, we should try,” said Winner, a member of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee. “We should always stay vigilant in our efforts, as best we can, to secure schools as safe harbors for our young people.”
Winner said that the anti-bullying legislation is being introduced in the Senate in the wake of a series of tragic bullying incidents in New York, Massachusetts, and elsewhere across the nation. Last month, for example, a Long Island teen hanged herself after being harassed by cyber-bullies. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick recently signed a new anti-bullying law in the wake of the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, a case which brought national attention to the problem of bullying and cyber-bullying.
Statistics show that efforts are working in states where bullying prevention is taught in schools. According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, bullying can be reduced by up to 50% when there is a school-wide commitment to preventative and educational programs aimed at raising awareness, increasing teacher and parent involvement, forming clear rules and strong social norms against bullying, and providing support and protection for students.
The United State Department of Justice reports that cyber-bullying, bullying through the means of any electronic device, is at an all-time high. Forty-three percent of teenagers reported being victims of cyber-bullying. While nine out of 10 teens, or 92%, reported knowing their bully, only 10 percent of those cyber-bullying victims told their parents. Cyber-bullying often involves vicious anonymous taunts on social networking sites such as Facebook.
Winner said that the “Anti-Bullying Act” he co-sponsors would, among other provisions, require school districts to include methods for discouraging acts of bullying and cyber-bullying within the required instruction in civility, citizenship, and character education; define bullying and cyber-bullying and add these acts to the list of incidents for which disciplinary measures must be taken pursuant to the school district’s code of conduct; and require all school employees to report incidents of bullying and cyber-bulling.