If we didn’t pay enough attention to it in the past, that is certainly no excuse for failure to take action in the present.

As reported in The Sunday Telegraph of May 30, local school administrators say the issue is a priority. Even longtime educators who’ve been aware of bullies for years say the use of the Internet has raised the stakes and created more of a challenge for enforcement of antibullying policies and statutes. Under the cloak of anonymity, bullies can be even more vicious and wreak greater havoc in the lives of their victims.

Two highly publicized cases have created a heightened awareness of the problem – the suicide of Phoebe Prince in South Hadley, Mass., in January; and an incident in Concord earlier this month, when four students gave a special needs student an obscene tattoo on his backside.

At the request of The Telegraph, the Nashua School District released its record of bullying incident reports for the past year. While nothing rose to the level of the South Hadley or Concord incidents, there were 39 noteworthy cases.

They included persistent physical and verbal abuse, cyberbullying and assaults on the school bus. In one reported incident, three students were threatening and cyberbullying another student. A school resource officer intervened and warned the students of possible criminal threatening charges and suspension from school.

Now that the state is about to include bullying in its criminal statutes, resource officers should issue those warnings more often. In the most severe cases, students should face criminal charges as juveniles or adults, depending on their age.

The state’s new bullying law, which has been passed by the House and Senate and is expected be signed by Gov. John Lynch this month, will require school districts to incorporate cyber-bullying into their antibullying policies. It will also require that all incidents of bullying and cyberbullying are reported to the state annually.

Once bullies realize that their harassment, assaults and intimidation will lead to criminal sanctions that may dog them for life, they may think twice before they act.

In Nashua, Superintendent of Schools Mark Conrad should be commended for making bullying a top priority. He recently dedicated a monthly principals meeting to a review of the district’s definition of bullying and reporting requirements. There are plans for workshops and professional development over the summer and next school year to learn more about the problem.

The district has a policy that requires principals to act on all complaints of bullying, including contacting all of the parents involved, within 48 hours. The district now needs to close the gap in its policies regarding cyber-bullying.

One of the great advantages in the state’s new bullying law is that it won’t be limited to school grounds. Bullying will be subject to prosecution even when off school property, if authorities can prove it was disruptive to the victim’s education and the orderly operation of the school.

All of these measures make sense, but ultimately zero tolerance among students, teachers and parents is the best prevention for bullying. Students who see it need to speak up. Teachers and administrators need to take action. Parents need to support them.

As British statesman Edmund Burke put it: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”