Senate revises cyberbullying law

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Bill Ketron

NASHVILLE - The Senate has approved legislation, sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Rep. Charles Curtiss (D-Sparta), that revises a law passed last year regarding cyberbullying through the use of electronic devices.

Senate Bill 2556 removes the words “frighten, intimidate, or cause emotional distress” to a victim in the state’s current cyberbullying law and replaces them with the word “threaten.”  
Ketron said he enlisted the help of Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper and other legal experts in revising the law to meet constitutional muster, while maintaining the focus on deterring bullying through electronic means. 

The revision limits the offense of harassment by display of an image to cases in which the defendant communicates without legitimate purpose with the intent that it will be viewed by the victim with the malicious intent to threaten them. 

“It must also be in a manner in which the defendant knows or reasonably should know, would threaten a similarly situated person,” he said.
“Technology has now given way to cyberbullying and electronic messaging, which challenges the traditional schoolyard bullying,” Ketron said. “Various national studies have found approximately 30 to 40 percent of students have reported they had been cyberbullied or had cyberbullied another person at least once. We met with the attorney general, the American Civil Liberties Union and others to rework last year’s law to address cyberbullying in a constitutional and more narrowly focused manner, while still addressing the problem experienced by too many kids who are victims of this form of bullying.”
The action comes after two children within a 30-mile radius of metro Nashville committed suicide over the past six months, with indications pointing to cyberbullying. 

Minors who are found guilty under the cyberbullying law would be subject to 30 days of public service work.
“I believe that this legislation addresses the constitutional concerns put forth last year and goes a step further to promote awareness in schools of the harmful effects of bullying,” he said.
The bill requires each Local Education Agency, at the beginning of the school year, to provide teachers and school counselors with a copy of the bullying policy and its implementation process, information on prevention and strategies to address bullying and harassment when it happens, as well as relevant training on the issue. 

Teachers and parents would also be given information relative to bullying prevention and programs to promote awareness of its harmful effects.
Finally, the bill requires annual reports regarding the number of bullying cases brought to the attention of school officials and the manner in which they were resolved or the reason they are pending.
“The reporting provision in the bill will give us a clear picture of how this bill is working and where improvements need to be made,” Ketron said. “I am very pleased it has passed and appreciate all the parties that worked with me to improve our cyberbullying  law for the benefit of many Tennessee students.”
The bill now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam for his signature.

Read more from:
Bill Haslam, Bill Ketron, Charles Curtiss, Cyberbullying, Democrats, General Assembly, GOP, Politics, Robert Cooper, State, Technology, Tennessee
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Members Opinions:
April 27, 2012 at 11:21am
I think that this new law is a great idea for not only Rutherford county but also everywhere else. Bullying in general is starting to become a huge problem country wide and it’s time to help put a stop to it. There are signs and examples of children committing suicide everywhere and most of it is due to bullying. Being that there are so many ways that bullying can come from, most will agree that cyber bullying is one of the top popular ones. “Technology has now given way to cyberbullying and electronic messaging, which challenges the traditional schoolyard bullying,” Ketron said. “Various national studies have found approximately 30 to 40 percent of students have reported they had been cyberbullied or had cyberbullied another person at least once. The facts have been stated and im glad that there is finally help being offered out there to all of these victims. Having this program and law be enforced in schools will definitely be of huge help as well. The children that are bullying should definitely be punished and should know that there are consequences to their actions. I am sure that everyone appreciates the help that these parties are putting towards helping such a great cause.
April 30, 2012 at 11:51am
I will concede your point that cyber bullying is become a major problem in the United States, but this opens up a completely different can of worms as far as what they are considering bullying. Because as you know not everyone has the same definition for bullying as the next guy. So all the law makers are going to have to get together and come up with a definitive definition for bullying. Bullying is and always has been there and no offense, but some kids really should grow a little tougher skin. I guess I take more of a boys will be boys stance on this, but I will say there are points where someone does have to step in. With the invention of computers, cell phones, the internet, email, Twitter, Myspace, and Facebook bullies have been handed an all new format to threaten or scare other children. There are ways for a child to get past the bullying though; they always have the option of blocking or ignoring the people that are bullying them though. This makes me miss the days of the schoolyard bullies. When I was younger I had issues with a bully till I just called him out had my physical altercation with him than won and he and I have been friends since.
May 01, 2012 at 9:37pm
I think it was a good idea to change the words in the bill from something less harmless to something life-altering. Having your feelings hurt is nothing compared to legitimately having your life threatened. As far as cyberbullying is concerned in the first place, it’s the majority of the time just kids picking on kids. There have been several TV movies made about the affects of cyberbullying, and when it comes down to it, kids need to grow up. This isn’t the same as having your face beat in on the playground. There is no physical sign of harm being done. Parents need to realize that their children have access to technology that may or may not hurt their feelings. Kids don’t care that what they say hurts others. So the “victims” shouldn’t be enablers. If no one reacted to negative things being said about them, cyberbullying wouldn’t even exist. Bullying isn’t the same as it used to be. Kids have the choice to ignore it or shut it down completely. Do ten-year-olds need to text their friends all day? No. Do middle school kids need facebooks? No. If there is a possibility that kids are so sensitive these days that they can’t use the internet without turning suicidal, there needs to be an age restriction on anything with posts, blogs, chat rooms, etc.
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