Victims, Police and Experts Join with Senator Hannon to Stop Cyberbullying
In response to the brutal cyberbullying attack upon Mary Kate Bell of West Islip and a slew of other bullying incidents statewide, New York State Senators Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and Owen Johnson (R-West Babylon) joined with the Bell family, law enforcement officials, school superintendents and children psychologists for a roundtable discussion on cyberbullying.
Recent news stories have highlighted a number of vicious incidents of bullying among school children in New York State that show this type of peer abuse has become more pervasive and destructive.
Mary Kate Bell, a West Islip teenager who spoke at the roundtable, was repeatedly cyberbullied and beaten so badly by a classmate that she had to have reconstructive surgery on her face. "I was just always scared to talk about it," said Bell, referring to the cyberbullying prior to the physical incident. "If I come forward, they'll just find out and retaliate," Bell continued.
"They have their phones and it's a secret world. Cyberbullying is a 24 hour a day thing," said Cathy Bell, Mary Kate's mother. "The computer and phone is their life. If I took it away, you would think she was in a coma."
Senator Kemp Hannon has introduced legislation in the State Senate (Senate Bill 7158) to address cyberbullying. The legislation would establish a state hotline for individuals to report instances of bullying, cyberbullying and hazing as well as elevate the penalties associated with the crimes of hazing, particularly in cases where a person is injured or dies.
“Cyberbullying is rising at an alarming rate and it all too often has devastating consequences. In today’s age of advanced technology, twenty-four hour connectivity and social networking, students who are subjected to acts of cyberbullying have no reprieve,” said Senator Hannon. “Taunts and acts of bullying that begin in school follow students home every day, and have lasting impacts on the child. This legislation will help to restore respect and dignity to our schoolchildren while making educators a proactive part of the bullying solution,” Hannon continued.
The United State Department of Justice reports that cyberbullying, bullying through the means of any electronic device, is at an all time high. Forty-three percent of teenagers reported being victims of cyberbullying. Nine in 10 teens, or 92 percent, reported knowing their bully; however only 10 percent of those cyberbullying victims told their parents. Cyberbullying often involves vicious anonymous taunts on social networking sites such as Facebook.