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Bullards bill takes aim at cyber-bullying

admin | 12/21/2011, 7:30 a.m.

Parents and school board members join in the fight Moving from childhood to the age of consent can be a trying time in a students life and bullying only adds to the stress of being a young adult. And with the onslaught of todays social networking, bullying can follow kids everywhere, even home. Last Thursday, December 15th, State Representative Dwight M. Bullard, 34, District 118, held a press conference on the steps of the Miami-Dade County Public School Board building downtown to introduce his anti-bullying bullying legislation, House Bill 627. This a very important topic because it addresses a real 21st century need for our students, Bullard said. We have seen the necessity for this bill due to the growth of Facebook and before that Myspace and now Twitter and the other vehicles for social media that have now become a new stage for harassment. So, it is important for us as advocates of children to understand that there is an increasing need to protect students. Bullards bill stipulates that any complaint of a computer-related incident must be investigated by a school district official. Cyber-bullying is defined as the willful and repeated harassment and intimidation of an individual through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass or cause substantial emotional distress to a person. According to statistics compiled by M-DCPS, approximately 160,000 students skip school daily because they are being bullied. And almost 30 percent of youth are estimated to be involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying or both. This is an ongoing challenge within our communities throughout the state, said Dr. Wilbert Holloway, 63, District 1 Miami-Dade County School Board member. This is not a problem that has just begun; our children have been in bullying situations since I was a child. But it has come to a proportion now to make sure that something is done about the safety and security of each of our children. The face of anti-bullying Sheterria Elliott, 12, who has been a victim of bullying, will serve as the face for Bullards bill. I felt really bad, she said. I felt like I had no body to talk to about this. I just really wanted to make it stop. I was experiencing mental abuse kids would call me white and say that I was adopted and they would ask me why my parents are Black and I am white. Bullying affected Elliots parents just as hard. As a parent you want to jump in and help, said Sherria L. Elliott, 41, Sheterrias mother. You want to protect them. But when they are out in the world they have to learn to stand up for themselves. And of course when she came home crying I would have to be there for her. It hurt me just as much as it hurt her, said Terry Elliott, Sr., 48, Sheterrias father. We had to learn how to cope with [bullying] to help her survive. We have helped our daughter by showing her a lot of love. By Randy Grice rgrice@miamitimesonline.com