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Westchester Lawmakers Propose Law to Prevent Cyberbullying

Westchester Lawmakers Propose Law to Prevent Cyberbullying

A law to prevent cyberbullying has been proposed by two Westchester County lawmakers, according to lohud.com.

Under the proposed law, the county’s Human Rights Commission would be charged with launching a public-education awareness program and an anti-cyberbullying website, as well as a toll-free hotline where callers would be able to remain anonymous. Their complaints would be transmitted to local law enforcement agencies and the commission.

The program would target school district administrations, other educators, parents and students. The website would list community resources, including prevention programs and intervention services.

Legislator Alfreda Williams, D-Greenburgh, co-sponsor of the bill, said she expected the costs associated with establishing the hotline and outreach would be a "minor expense."

While it’s not the first time a law prohibiting cyberbullying was been proposed in Westchester, this time there isn’t any language establishing misdemeanor penalties such as jail time and fines for those who break the law.

Legislator Ken Jenkins, D-Yonkers, said this version focuses on preventive rather than punitive measures.

"The law is already there if someone crosses that line," he said. "The thought here is to educate young people before that happens."

In studies cited by the Centers for Disease Control, 9 percent to 25 percent of young people say they have been victims of what the agency calls “electronic aggression.” Victims of cyberbullying are more likely to use alcohol and other drugs, according to the CDC.

Williams said cyberbullying could have detrimental effects on self-esteem beyond regular bullying because of its high-profile nature and because young people can't escape it even in their own homes.

"So many of these young people are suffering from these kinds of attacks," she said. "What we wanted to do was give young people alternatives to make sure they’re aware there’s help out there."

The proposed law was referred for discussion to legislative committees last week. If legislators take it up there, it may be modified or amended prior to any vote.

RELATED: Bullying Prevention: Parents Make the Difference

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