State Senator Proposes Stiffer Penalties for Cyber Bullies - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

State Senator Proposes Stiffer Penalties for Cyber Bullies

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by Aundrea Cline-Thomas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Lawmakers debated on Wednesday whether more needs to be done to make kids feel safe at school.

One proposal addressed cyber bullying and would force schools to notify law enforcement when specific threats are made.

"Essentially going after a loophole area where there is no code requiring schools to let people know what's happening to some students," said bill sponsor Senator Mark Green (R-Clarksville).

Every school district already has bullying policies in place, but Senator Green doesn't think it's enough.

"The school needs to communicate this information, if they're aware, to the authorities," Green said.

Under his proposal, districts would suspend students for a year if they threaten to injure another student via Facebook, text messages or any electronic device.

The proposal would also require school employees, students and volunteers made aware of such threats to report it to school leaders.

"Us holding (students) responsible in the school system for something that they may say on the weekends or at night that's a problem too I feel," said Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald).

Districts already have the authority to address imminent threats. It's the possibility of misinterpreting the intentions behind certain messages that concerns some lawmakers.

"A lot of innocent kids may get reported to law enforcement and get some kind of record or suspended for saying something that they really didn't mean," Hensley said.

While lawmakers agree that bullying is a problem in school, they question however if this is the best way to address it.

"I don't want to pass laws that may be a detriment to a child," Hensley said.

Senator Green is clarifying his proposal and will bring it back to the Senate Education committee next week.

If the proposal passes, it will head to the floor for a vote.



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