Cyber-bullying may soon be easier to catch and stop in Oneida County. The district attorney says that would be the case if a new bill passes next month. YNN's Andrew Sorensen explains the state of bullying in the county, and why the new law is needed.
VERNON, N.Y. -- The daily lunch break at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Middle School was written off this week. Instead, students like Sean Bedford and Molly Coolican penciled in lessons on bullying.
"Tuesday we had a mix-up day, and we got to sit at different tables with a whole bunch of different people, than just sitting with the normal tables that we do every day," said Bedford.
"And they had these stickers that you could post on construction paper, and you got to say what you were sorry for, like if you ever bullied somebody or if you were ever a bystander," Coolican said.
They still got to eat, but their added lessons empowered them during anti-bullying month.
"So what I'd like to challenge all you guys to do today, is be an upstander, and not a bystander," said Sean Morelle, one of the week's presenters.
VVS has gone so far as to create a bully locker, where students can report what they're seeing discretely to an adult. But while all this was going on this week, the issue was getting more attention from much higher than the principal's office.
"Here in Oneida County, when there is a problem, we deal with it," Oneida County Executive, Anthony Picente said, at a news conference Thursday.
Picente announced a county bill on cyberbullying, something DA Scott McNamara says is badly needed.
"It's not uncommon for us to receive complaints on a weekly basis about people being cyber bullied, and some of it is downright vicious," McNamara said. But until now, they've had to turn those calls away.
"Right now, it's not a crime, so because they made it a misdemeanor instead of a violation, it gives us a lot more power to investigate it," he explained. That includes tracking down perpetrators. But for the main, at-risk group of cyber-bullying, simpler measures are at work.
"Because bullying is not so much a problem at VVS," Coolican said, "But I think it's going to let us know that bullying isn't OK whatsoever. Like you have other friends at other schools, you can tell them bullying is not OK."
The Oneida County Legislature will vote on the proposal November 13. If it's passed, the county executive will likely sign it within a week. Oneida County would be the fifth county to enact cyber-bullying legislation.
The new law would include a fine of $500 to $1,000 and possibly up to one year in prison.