Electronic communications such as text messaging, blogs, and social networking sites will become part of the terrain that New York schools must target in their anti-bullying strategies following the passage of cyber bullying legislation Monday.

The measure, which defines “cyber bullying” as “harassment or bullying that occurs through any form of electronic communication,” extends the Dignity for All Students Act passed by the legislature in 2010. That legislation, which takes effect next month after a two-year implementation period, prohibits harassment in schools on the basis of traits including sexual orientation as well as gender identity and expression, marking the first time New York state lawmakers passed a measure with specific protections for transgender individuals.

Students today live in a cyber-world – it’s how most choose to communicate. It’s also how many are cyber bullied — whether through messaging, emails, or social networking sites, it’s difficult for victims to escape the 24/7 exposure to threats, bullying, or discrimination. With this new law, when cyber bullying impedes a student’s ability to learn, victims and their parents will now have the ability to report the incidents to school districts to investigate. This is a critically needed step toward ensuring a safe school environment.

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