Springfield, IL – Today, State Representative Margaret Croke’s legislation to expand and strengthen the state’s existing cyberbullying statute passed the Illinois House with bipartisan support. The bill builds upon the existing statute last updated in 2012 to expand the definition of bullying to add additional protected characteristics and creates new requirements for the Illinois State Board of Education to better prevent cyberbullying, and in the cases where it occurs, guarantee parents and guardians quickly know about incidents.
“Our students’ social media and internet usage has changed so much in the last decade, and we need to ensure that our laws reflect the current landscape and can best protect our young people from cyberbullying,” said State Representative Margaret Croke. “This legislation will update our existing cyberbullying statute to help us better understand what incidents are occurring and how to address them, as well as strengthen requirements to notify parents of an incident if it occurs. As the mother of two young children, I am always thinking of ways to keep them and every other child in Illinois safe, and I believe this bill helps do that. I’m proud to see it pass the House with bipartisan support today.”
Among other components, the legislation expands the definition of bullying to add academic status, pregnancy, and homelessness as additional protected characteristics. It also requires the Illinois State Board of Education to collect annual data reports from all school districts, both public and private, that use non-identifiable data to report each bullying incident and the action taken. This reporting requirement would be in place for six years. It also requires schools to notify parents within 24 hours of a bullying incident as well as all threats, suggestions, or instances of self-harm as the result of bullying involving their child – whether they are the bully or the victim – and requires the school to exhaust all notification methods in those 24 hours.
A recent Pew Research study found that nearly half of teenagers in the United States have been harassed or bullied online, with older teenage girls the most likely to be targeted. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24 in the country, showing how critical it is to ensure legislation is in place to best protect our young people.
The bill, HB3425, now moves to the Senate, where it is sponsored by State Senator Sara Feigenholtz. Read more at ilga.gov.