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Senate Education Panel Approves Buono Cyberbullying Measure

TRENTON – Taunts and threats sent by e-mail, text messaging or instant messaging would be covered by New Jersey’s school bullying laws under a new bill sponsored by Senator Barbara Buono and approved by the Senate Education Committee today.

“E-mail and text-messaging is second nature to kids today and, thus, has become another means of bullying in our schools,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “Many educators, parents and child advocates warn that cyberbullying has potential to be even more damaging to victims than the physical forms of bullying that we are more accustomed to.”

The bill, S-993, would expand the definition of bullying to include harassment and intimidation that is inflicted via electronic communications. Electronic communication would be defined as a communication transmitted by means of an electronic device, including, but not limited to, a telephone, cellular phone, computer or pager. This would encompass bullying delivered through E-mail, chat-rooms, instant messaging and text messaging.

“Technology makes it easier for kids to spread gossip, taunts and unflattering photos and letters among their peers. Plus the anonymous nature of the Internet empowers bullies to take bolder actions with less chance of being held accountable. We need to make sure our children know that this behavior is just as bad as any other form of bullying,” explained Senator Buono.

Senator Buono was joined at the committee meeting by National American Miss Teen 2005 Samantha Hahn. Miss Hahn, a New Jersey native, has made bullying the central theme of her platform while serving as National American Miss Teen. As a victim of bullying herself, she gave an account to the committee of the harassment and intimidation she faced in school, especially through e-mail and instant messaging, and discussed the impact that bullying can have on young people.

“Samantha’s story is indicative of the fact that any child can be a victim of cyberbullying and that it can cause that child a great deal of anguish and physical pain. Fortunately, she was able to address the bullying with the help of her parents and is now helping to raise awareness for the need to deal with bullying in a proactive manner,” said Senator Buono.

The bill passed the Committee by a vote of 5-0 and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

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