YONKERS – As cyberbullying incidences rise to alarming levels among school age children, the Yonkers City Council unanimously passed legislation calling on state leaders to immediately pass the Senate’s Dignity for All Students Act. The bill (Senate S.7600) would amend the state’s Education Law by make it a misdemeanor to engage in repeated acts of cyberbullying and imposed stiff fines of up to $1,000 or up to one year of imprisonment for those found guilty of the offense.
Beyond passage of the senate bill, the Council’s resolution also calls on the Governor to sign the bill into law in an effort to “provide material protection to the health, safety and welfare of the minors of the State of New York.”
Recent studies have shown that individuals who have experienced cyberbullying have doubled from 18% to 37% between the years of 2007 and 2019. Reports have also uncovered that nearly 43% of children have been bullied online and roughly 25% have experienced it more than once.
Victims of cyberbullying can experience a wide range of negative effects, including mental health issues, poor academic performance, a desire to drop out of school, and suicidal ideation.
The Dignity Act bars discrimination “against any student based on their actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex by school employees or students on school property or at a school function.”
Majority Leader and Education Committee Chair Tasha Diaz (District 3) said, “It is hard enough being a child today. Our children deserve a chance to learn and develop into young adults without repeatedly having to worry about being targeted, publicly humiliated and harassed by bullies who seek to tear down their self-esteem and sometimes even worse. As parents and elected leaders, we must act to protect school children so that they can develop and live up to their potential without fear that they must face their bullies alone and without support and protection.”
“Between social media and our seemingly ever-present mobile phones, cyberbullying is particularly harmful to school children because the abuse can be 24/7 and follows victims wherever they may be. It is important that we not only stand with victims and give them support but we must have a zero-tolerance policy towards cyberbullying and hold offenders to account,” added Minority Leader Mike Breen (District 5).
“As parent I find it heartbreaking that any child would be targeted for abuse – especially in an education setting. And as an elected official, I am committed to doing whatever I can to ensure that we tackle the crisis of bullying in our schools. Passage of the Dignity Act would go a long way towards making it clear that cyberbullying has no place in our state,” Majority Whip John Rubbo (District 4).
“No child should feel isolated and helpless when facing the threat of cyberbullying. The Dignity Act will make it clear that we stand with victims and will hold offenders responsible for their actions. Beyond strengthening laws to help eradicate cyberbullying, social media companies also have a responsibility to monitor and rid their platforms of hateful and cruel language that target children,” concluded Council Member Shanae Williams (District 1).