New York, NY, May 28, 2009 … As texting, instant messaging, chatting, blogging and social-networking sites have taken off in popularity among children and teenagers, cyberbullying has emerged as a unique challenge for schools, communities and the courts. Yet efforts to find a legislative approach to combat this pernicious form of bullying have been uneven, sporadic and not always effective.
In an effort to provide state legislatures and school boards with guidance in drafting more effective laws, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has developed a Model Cyberbullying Prevention Statute that encourages school districts to adopt an anti-bullying policy that is comprehensive, practical and effective.
"Cyberbullying is a growing problem, and schools are hard-pressed for ways to deal with those who misuse online technology to bully, harass and intimidate their peers," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "In some of the more serious cases, the victims of cyberbullying are targeted because of their race, religion or sexual orientation. This form of social cruelty can be particularly devastating."
Working through its regional offices across the country, the League will use its model statute to encourage states to consider adopting more comprehensive anti-bullying laws.
"There are currently laws in 37 states dealing with bullying," said Mr. Foxman. "But the reality is that many of the existing laws are incomplete or not specific enough in their requirements. In developing our model statute, we wanted to encourage states that have legislation to take another look at their statutes and rework them, if need be, to be even better. And we wanted to provide a template to those states that have yet to take action for adopting a complete, effective and constitutional cyberbullying prevention bill."
The ADL Model Cyberbullying Prevention Statute, if adopted in full by state legislatures, would:
- Include a strong definition of bullying, which includes cyberbullying;
- Address bullying motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation and other personal characteristics;
- Include notice requirements for students and parents;
- Set out clear reporting procedures;
- Require regular training for teachers and for students about how to recognize and respond to bullying and cyberbullying.
ADL has produced an online guide to its model legislation, with an accompanying Cyberbullying Prevention Statute Advocacy Toolkit (.pdf), which includes ADL's Model Cyberbullying Prevention Law, general taking points in support of anti-bullying legislation, a specific section-by-section description of the ADL model policy, a compilation of the existing anti-bullying statutes, and examples of school Internet acceptable use policies.
ADL is a leader in anti-bias education, and in advocating for hate crimes legislation.
In recent years, the League has developed and facilitated innovative educational programming to help schools develop a comprehensive approach to prevent and intervene against cyberbullying as part of a broader strategy to create safe schools for all students. The League's A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute has conducted dozens of cyberbullying workshops and trainings for schools, parents, teachers and students across the country.
In 1981, ADL developed a model hate crimes bill and advocated for its passage in states nationwide. Today, 45 states and the District of Columbia have passed hate crime statutes, many based on ADL's model.