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The Jessica Logan Act seeks to stop cyberbullying among teens

Oct. 13, 2011

BY Chrissy Niehaus

In 2008 Jessica Logan, a Cincinnati teen, took her own life when she became the constant victim of both cyberbullying and in-person ridicule after a nude photograph of her was allegedly released school-wide by friends.

Because of her victimization, the Jessica Logan Act is pending in Ohio as a cyberbullying bill to protect other teens from such instances as online assault.

Cynthia Logan, Jessica’s mother, has become an advocate for adolescents’ rights on and off school property.

“If the abuse is happening off school grounds,” Logan said, “it is happening on school grounds.”

The lead sponsor of the pending Jessica Logan Act, Ohio Senate Bill 127, Senator Joe Schiavoni, explained the bill.

“The whole purpose,” he said “is to expose [cyberbullying] to the administrators, parents and school officials.”

Schiavoni also explained that with two sides of a computer screen, the bullying can spiral out of control and with the Internet savvy kids of today, growing increasingly more so, it is difficult to control cyberbullying.

Tim Boehnlein, training and education director of the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center of Cleveland, explained that the emotional effects of cyberbullying are clear with the imminent depression that results in adolescents because of it.

“[Teenagers] send this picture to their boyfriend or girlfriend, thinking they’re the only one to see it,” Boehnlein said.

Among depression and lowering self-esteem of the victims, bullying can result in social isolation because of the victims’ fears of further torment. Though it is not limited to social networking sites or instant messaging. Many times, as with Jessica Logan, a photograph taken with a cell phone can be unwillingly sent to the wrong person.

However, although many may expect swift justice for these victims of the Web, punishment is not as simple to deliver as one may anticipate.

“Cyberbullying is something that is easily done because of that computer screen,” said David Frattare, lead investigator of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in Cleveland.

As school officials in the Jessica Logan case remained unhelpful, as well as the teens involved, pinning the crime down on the main culprit remained a difficult task.

Such circumstances continue to make prosecution difficult in many cases. One of the most prominent issues, Frattare said, begins with kids’ access to technology itself and the ease with which they use it to cause harm to their peers.

And while one may expect the solution to begin at home, Boehnlein pointed out that so many parents automatically assume their particular child would never commit such a hate crime as cyberbullying. The problem of cyberbullying is also far from being solved inside schools as well, emphasized Boehnlein.

With the Jessica Logan case, Cynthia Logan claimed that once she confronted the vice-principal about the imminent bullying, he claimed to have had no idea who Jessica even was.

The rest of the school officials were further unhelpful, as many asserted that since the bullying wasn’t on school grounds they could do nothing.

But Cynthia Logan felt otherwise.

“Once a text message is sent, you can be guaranteed it will travel to school grounds,” she said. “There is no way it ends at home.”