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Teen's Suicide Sparks Anti-Bullying Legislation

3:24 PM, Sep 28, 2011   |    comments
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MANHATTAN, N.Y. -- After hearing of the story of Williamsville teen Jamey Rodemeyer's suicide following bullying, State Senator Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) decided drastic legislation is needed to prevent that in the future.

Monday afternoon, Klein announced a bill he will introduce in the state legislature that specifically addresses "cyber-bullying."

In a video posted on YouTube, Jamey described how he was made fun of outside school as well.

"People would just constantly send me hate (online), telling me that gay people go to hell," Jamey said in the video. Months after the recording, he took his own life.

Klein's bill says "harassing a child using electronic communication" would fall under 3rd Degree Stalking, punishable with up to a year in prison. If that harassment caused suicide, the bully could face 2nd Degree Manslaughter charges and up to 15 years in prison.

"Do something about your children, control your children," Klein said at the news conference outside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse. "Otherwise they're going to be punished under a very tough New York State statute."

Because bullies exist beyond New York State, others think federal legislation is needed.

Pop singer Lady Gaga, who was Jamey's idol, not only dedicated a song in his honor over the weekend. Sunday night, she mentioned his story to President Obama while at a private fundraiser in California.

According to ABC News: "She thanked Obama for hosting his anti-bullying conference with Michelle Obama, and then made a general plea to everyone in the room, including the president, to do what they can to prevent bullying. Obama thanked her (and) spoke about his administration's anti-bullying campaign..."

At the federal level, there are two bills that would address bullying: The Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. Neither appears to have enough support to pass.

Back here in New York, State Senator Patrick Gallivan (R-59th District) helped pass a new, anti-bullying bill in the State Senate, but it has not passed in the Assembly.

It is called the "Law to Encourage the Acceptance of all Differences (LEAD)." It's in addition to the "Dignity for all Students Act", which passed both houses and was signed by Governor Paterson last year. It will take effect next year.

Gallivan's LEAD bill would add to the previous law by requiring all teachers be certified in identifying and addressing bullying. Students kindergarten through 12th grade would be taught about bullying and its effects. The bill would also make disciplinary action mandatory in all cases of bullying. Gallivan said the state would help with funding the new initiatives in school districts statewide.

Gallivan said he hopes the Assembly will take up that measure during the next session.

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