Cyber bullying bill moves forward

BELL GARDENS - On a 7-0 bipartisan vote, the Assembly Education Committee has passed cyber bullying legislation authored by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia.According to Garcia, current law is silent on cyber bullying, where offending students use computers, smartphones and social media to perpetuate harassing and threatening behavior away from the school campus. "Our anti-bullying laws were written at a time well before the electronic age that we live in today," Garcia said. "Bullying is unacceptable behavior that should not be tolerated in any way, shape or form, including harassment and humiliation through electronic communications." The consequences of cyber bullying have been documented nationally in several high visibility cases. The cases involved alleged sexual assaults by high school students who taunted and dispersed graphic images of their victims through text and social media. In two instances, the distressed victims committed suicide. Testifying on behalf of the cyber bullying legislation, AB 256, was Eric Andresen, the father of Ryan Andresen. Ryan was denied an Eagle Scout award and was expelled from the Boy Scouts when he admitted to being gay, Garcia said. Andresen said his son was the victim of cyber bullying in intermediate school and as parents he and his wife were frustrated by the lack of action by school personnel. "Even if we could get school teachers and administrators to understand and appreciate the extent of the bullying the hands of the school officials were effectively tied," he said. As a former teacher, Garcia said she is concerned about the toll that bullying takes not only on the victim, but on teachers and students in the classroom. "Cyber bullying is unique in that it deteriorates the trust between the students and the teacher because students expect teachers to quickly intervene on their behalf, but their hands are tied," she said. "Instead of being engaged in the day's lesson, students are worried about what's being posted about them or preoccupied they might be the next victim online." AB 256 will now move to the Assembly floor for debate and vote before it goes to the Senate.

********** Published: May 30, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 07