Stories about bullying and its tragic aftermath have been making news in recent years. In Staten Island earlier this month, a 15 year old girl threw herself in front of a train as dozens of students watched. This occurred after she was bullied by members of the football team at her school. She was allegedly bullied online, in person, and at the train station right before she stepped in front of the train.
After the horrifying story made news, New Yorkers began calling for punishment for the bullies. Currently, no criminal punishment for bullies exists. Earlier this year, a bill was signed into law regarding cyber bullying, but the bill does little to prevent bullying. Instead, the cyber bullying law does a few things – it requires that schools take action in the case of cyber bullying either at the school or away from the school, it requires protocols be in place at schools to deal with cyber bullying, and it sets training requirements for current school employees about cyber bullying.
However, as well meaning as the bill may be, it does little to punish cyber bullies. Twenty-one other states have laws in place to punish cyber bullies, and a law punishing bullies is currently under proposal in New York. The problem is, although no one approves of bullying, especially extreme bullying, it’s hard to determine what behavior constitutes bullying. There are always going to be mean kids, and when does the behavior cross the line from rudeness into criminal behavior? Will a law do anything to actually prevent tragedies like the one that occurred earlier this month in Staten Island, or will it cause a nightmare bureaucracy of red tape anytime a child makes a rude comment to another child?