Proposed law on cyber-bullying sent back to committee
A proposed law prohibiting cyber bullying in Ulster County was sent back to legislative committee for further consideration amid concerns the law would turn young perpetrators into criminals.
“We don’t want to create a situation where we’re creating more records for kids,” said Legislator Da-
vid Donaldson. “You don’t want to automatically make them a victim also.”
Under the law as proposed, juveniles under the age of 16 found guilty of using the internet to bully another would be prosecuted in Family Court.
First-time violators who are 16 or older would be charged with a misdemeanor. Repeat violators could be sentenced to jail.
Donaldson, D-Kingston, called cyber bullying “worse than physical bullying,” saying “you can never escape it.
“You go home, you face it. Wherever you go, you face it,” he said, adding that, as a former teacher, “I’ve seen what it has done to some kids.”
But it was the possibility of those guilty of cyber bullying ending up with criminal records — even though the youths may be eligible for youthful offender status — that gave Donaldson, DKingston, pause.
“We’re still dealing with kids,” he said. “You don’t want to automatically make them a victim also.
Legislature Chairman Ken Ronk, who sponsored the local law, agreed to have the resolution setting a public hearing on the measure sent back to committee, despite what he said are his own reservations about delaying the vote.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about the possible perpetrator and a lot less discussion about the victim,” said Ronk, R-Wallkill, who said that, as a youth, he was the victim of bullying.
While he said he was concerned about youngsters ending up with a criminal record, “I want us also to be cognizant of the victim of the bully who are right now not getting the justice they deserve.
Legislator Carl Belfiglio, who was the lone legislator to vote against sending the measure back to committee, said a law with teeth in it will “help change behaviors.” “When you break the law, you have penalties,” said Belfiglio, R-Esopus. “There are consequences to life.” Donaldson said he has asked Ulster County Public Defender Andrew Kossover to look at the local law and make recommendations before legislative committees meet again in November.