New York Sen. Jeffrey Klein has introduced a "cyber-bullying" bill, which is meant to update the state's existing anti-bullying laws, which currently does not punish digital tormentors. The bill is a response to several recent cases of teenage suicides.
"Our laws are not keeping pace with technology, and we are paying a human price for it," Klein said in a report on his State Senate website. "No longer is bullying only confined to the schoolyard, it is now piped in an instant through victim's computers and onto the devices they carry in their pockets. This legislation will help provide protections to those who need it, as well as send a strong message about the seriousness of this destructive behavior."
Last year, the suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyson Clementi, a young and secretly gay man, revealed just how common youth suicides are among picked-on teenagers and children. The young man killed himself by jumping from the George Washington Bridge in September 2010, after his roommate broadcast on the Internet a video of him in a sexual encounter with a man.
More recently, public opinion was shaken by the death of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, who took his life on Sept. 18, after being "cyber-bullied" for his sexual orientation. The boy wrote on his blog earlier about how intense the bullying was.
The new law would include two parts, where the first one would incorporate "cyber-bullying" into the category of third-degree stalking, a class A misdemeanor, and the second one would categorize "bullycide" - causing someone to commit suicide by bullying - as second-degree manslaughter, a class C felony, according to CNN.
At least 30 states already have laws dealing with online harassment, according to Reuters.
New York does have laws designed to tackle the issue of general bullying - The Dignity for All Students Act, passed in 1999.
According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC), approximately 30 percent of American youth report moderate or frequent involvement in bullying in some capacity.