School districts will be required to establish protocols to curb online bullying or harassment of students under legislation signed Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but “cyber bullying” won’t constitute a specific criminal charge. The measure, which takes effect July 1, 2013, requires schools to promptly investigate reports of students bullied through emails, electronic messaging or social networking sites. Other steps include staff training, coordination with police when appropriate, and telling the community about the policies.

While defining cyber bullying as harassment or bullying that occurs through any form of electronic communication, the new law includes a school response to incidents that occur off the school campus when they would reasonably be expected to cause disruption at school or cause students to fear for their safety, interfere with their mental or emotional health or interfere with school performance.

Districts will have to identify an official responsible for receiving bullying reports, establish a mechanism for parents and students to report bullying, and require school staff who witness an incident or receive a report to notify that official verbally within one school day and in writing within three. The principal, superintendent or someone they designate will be required to ensure all reports are investigated thoroughly and promptly and act to end any verified cases, prevent recurrences and prohibit retaliation against anyone who reports bullying.

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