Laws on Bullying Lack Penalties - 8 News NOW

Laws on Bullying Lack Penalties

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District Attorney Steve Wolfson District Attorney Steve Wolfson
Sgt. Mitch Maciszak with Clark County School Police Sgt. Mitch Maciszak with Clark County School Police

LAS VEGAS -- Bullying can range from verbal and physical abuse to harassment online. In some cases, it is so severe, police get involved.

There are penalties for cyber bullying. The law is very clear and police have the power to hold cyberbullies accountable. But for other types of bullying, when a computer isn't involved, there is just a definition in the books. There are no penalties.

"As it stands right now, the behavior of bullying is not a crime," Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said.

He says he doesn't know how many cases in his office are related to bullying because there is no law against it.

"I think a reexamination of the laws that are on the books now is probably appropriate," Wolfson said.

The definition lawmakers put in the books reads: Bullying means a willful act which is written, verbal or physical or a course of conduct which is not authorized by law and which is repeated and causes harm or emotional distress, exploits an imbalance of power, poses a threat or fear of harm and creates an environment interfering with education.

"It's only a definition so it's like a starting point," said Sgt. Mitch Maciszak, Clark County School District Police.

Clark County schools have a policy against bullying. More than 1,700 students were suspended or expelled for bullying or intimidation over the last school year.

"We probably respond on a daily basis to some type of bullying event. All bullying events turn into an investigation," Sgt. Maciszak said.

If the bullying is taken to another level, Wolfson says his hands are tied, unless it's cyber bullying. Lawmakers made cyber bullying a crime with penalties. It was in response of cases involving videos posted online.

For the first violation involving a cell phone or computer, the child is supervised by probation with coaching and counseling. If there is a second offense, the child could be taken into custody.

"We have to look at what we're allowed to do. Is it meeting cyberbullying? If it doesn't meet cyberbullying, does it meet harassment? Does it meet an assault? Does it meet a battery situation of child that was actually hurt? Therefore, our investigation may turn into a different type of crime altogether, but it started with a bullying complaint," Sgt. Maciszak said.

For bullying without a computer or cell phone, Wolfson says an enhancement might be a solution. For example, if there's an assault because of bullying, by law, bullying would be part of that greater offense.

"There needs to be a review of the laws on the books. Do we have the right laws that apply to the behavior out there?" Wolfson said. "There are kids out there that I believe are bullied every single day and probably feel helpless."

Since the cyberbullying law went into effect last October, school police tell us six citations or arrests have been made in regards to cyberbullying between October and January. There are also other bullying-related laws, but they address the reporting of it and prevention, not penalties.



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