An effort to curb cyberbullying through legislation made its way to Campus Magnet HS in Cambria Heights last week to raise awareness and get teens to document their experiences.
State Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) is sponsoring a state bill co-sponsored by state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans) that includes cyberbullying as a misdemeanor if it is “likely to cause a fear of harm, or emotional distress to a person under the age of 21.”
Cyberbullying would become a felony if it leads a sufferer to commit suicide.
The legislation was sparked by the suicide of Jamie Rodermeyer, an upstate teen who was cyberbullied over his sexual orientation and killed himself.
Klein said there are nationwide statistics on cyberbullying — 43 percent of the country’s teens say they are constantly cyberbullied and 54 percent of gay and lesbian teens say they are harassed online — but no figures for the state.
“Before we can deal with the problem, we need to make sure we take a good look at cyberbullying in New York,” he said. “I think we can go a long way toward helping our young people.”
Scarborough said there has been “anecdotal evidence” of cyberbullying in southeast Queens and pointed out that his college daughter had friends who were cyberbullied, which broke up friendships and led to its sufferers contemplating suicide.
“Unfortunately, today with the increase of social media and the Internet, bullying has taken on a whole new level,” the assemblyman said. “Now you can be bullied anonymously.”
Miss New York Kaitlin Monti, who has made cyberbullying her main issue, commended the legislators for implementing a survey that will allow teens to open up about cyberbullying.
“It’s going to allow students to know that not only do they have a voice, but that they’ll be heard,” she said. “No child should feel that their only option is suicide.”
Jamie Isaacs, a 15-year-old from Long Island who said she has endured cyberbullying since second-grade, started a foundation in her name to help teens who suffer like she has.
Jamie said that through her foundation, she has prevented eight suicides — in all cases, the teens were either cutting themselves or had purchased weapons to kill themselves.
“Cyberbullying is insane. The levels are off the charts,” she said. “If we can get this to stop as much as possible, that’s all that matters.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2011 Community News Group
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