Cyberbullying has Ohio legislatures and local school officials scrambling for a solution.
The Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate have bullying legislation in their education committees calling for schools to offer a policy against cyberbullying, which the House bill defines as “harassment, intimidation, or bullying by electronic means.”
The legislation extends control to public schools to discipline students engaging in such behavior off school property if it disrupts the academic environment.
Both bills are called The Jessica Logan Act, named after a Cincinnati girl who hanged herself in 2008 after her ex-boyfriend sent naked pictures of her to peers.
Giving high schools the ability to punish cyberbullying away from school grounds would keep minors from being prosecuted, said Ohio House Rep. Nancy Garland (D-Gahanna). This makes sense, because cyberbullying is so prevalent among minors that courts would not be able to handle every case.
Both cyberbullying bills require schools to train “teachers, administrators, counselors, nurses, and school psychologists,” to handle cyberbullying.
Rep. Garland, who introduced the House bill with Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), said schools already are required to give bullying training to faculty and staff. She said a state-run organization called eTech, which provides schools free technological support, plans to develop a free cyberbullying program for all schools to use if the bill passes.
Rep. Garland said she hopes for the bill to become law before next school year, but depending on the number of hearings it has, passing the bill could take longer.
Opponents to the legislation are concerned that giving schools the ability to discipline students for behavior off school property may make them liable to deal with those cases.
The Senate is waiting on court decisions on the responsibility of schools to address misconduct occurring off school property before voting to pass the legislation.
Only one version of the bill needs to pass for the cyberbullying law to take effect. If the House and Senate both pass their versions, they will merge the bills into one law.
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