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Rath hopes for vote on cyberbullying law next week

A proposal to make cyberbullying a misdemeanor in Erie County drew only one public comment during a hearing this morning.

Crystal J. Rodriguez, executive director of Buffalo's Commission on Citizens' Rights and Community Relations, urged county legislators to pass its own local law since state antibullying legislation approved last year did not address online bullying.

"The Dignity for All Students law does not address cyberbullying," Rodriguez said. "And quite honestly, that's where the bulk of the bullying -- especially the bullying that has the most emotional effects -- that's where it's coming from."

Two Erie County legislators -- Edward A. Rath III and Raymond W. Walter -- proposed the local law following the death of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer in September. Rodemeyer, a freshman at Williamsville North High School, complained of being bullied before committing suicide in September.

The proposal would make cyberbullying an "unclassified misdemeanor" that would carry a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.

The legislation mirrors similar laws passed in three other New York counties last year. The Niagara County Legislature is also considering a cyberbullying law. 

Walter said students from Casey Middle School in Williamsville also submitted a petition with dozens of signatures in support of the proposed county law.

"We're dealing with kids," Rodriguez said. "This is something that will deter them, but it won't ruin the rest of their lives."

Rath and Walter, as well as legislators Christina W. Bove and Lynne M. Dixon, also spoke in support of the proposal during the hearing. Rath said he hopes the local law could come up for a vote during the Legislature's next meeting Nov. 17.

--Denise Jewell Gee

 

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Erie County Legislature | Policy
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Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

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Tom Precious

Tom Precious

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Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

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Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

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