Suffolk County State Legislative Majority Leader Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) recently introduced two resolutions designed to combat the bullying and cyber-bullying of school children. A third resolution targets cyber-stalking of adults.

New York is one of seven states that does not have any anti-bullying statutes in place, although several bills are currently pending in the state senate and assembly. Whether or not anything will come of any of the proposals is anybody’s guess: anti-bullying legislation has been bandied about in New York’s legislature since 2000, reports the national watchdog group Bully Police, but nothing has yet emerged out of committee. For not passing any anti-bullying legislation, Bully Police gave New York an “F,” its lowest possible grade.

The impetus
Cooper’s impetus for introducing the resolutions was the result of a meeting he held several weeks ago with Annie and Ronald Isaacs and their daughter, Jamie, of Lake Grove. “This 14-year-old girl and her parents recounted relentless bullying the girl had experienced over a six-year period,” said Cooper. “According to the parents, there was physical and verbal harassment and vandalism, all which remained unchecked in spite of numerous meetings with school officials.“

Cooper heard similar stories of bullying and school administrators refusing to take action, although, he noted, many districts do have zero tolerance policies regarding bullying.

Onus is on the schools
Suffolk’s anti-bully legislation would make school officials, such as principals, accountable for repeated incidents of bullying on school grounds. Failure to investigate allegations or discipline students engaged in bullying behavior could subject school administrators to a civil fine of $1,000.00 for each violation.

The resolution defines bullying behavior as “any physical, verbal or psychological attacks or intimidation directed against a student who cannot properly defend him- or her- self, including but not limited to assaulting; tripping; shoving; threatening; intimidating; spreading rumors about another; isolating another; humiliating; demands for money; blackmailing; destruction of another’s property; theft of another’s valued possessions; destruction of another’s work; and name-calling.”

Stopping cyber-bullying
A second proposal makes it unlawful for anyone to “engage in cyber-bullying against a minor” in Suffolk County, with violators subject to a misdemeanor charge punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a year in jail.

The resolution defines cyber-bullying as “engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts of abusive behavior over a period of time, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, and which serve no legitimate purpose, by communicating or causing a communication to be sent by mechanical or electronic means, posting statements on the internet or through a computer network.”

According to Linda Guido, Cooper’s legislative aide, the earliest this will be voted on is June 22, 2010. For more information on the resolutions, contact Jon Cooper’s office at 631-854-4500.