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Cyberbullying decried by Otter, Luna in ads

BOISE – Just months after an anti-bullying bill died in Idaho’s Legislature, Gov. Butch Otter has added his voice to efforts to bring an end to electronic harassment.

Otter filmed a public service announcement urging students, parents and teachers to create a zero tolerance policy for cyberbullying

The governor released the 30-second announcement via YouTube on Tuesday.

It says more than 18,000 children across the state receive text messages or other electronic communications from bullies each year.

“We can help stop this practice with education about the harmful effects of bullying and how to create a zero tolerance for harassment in and out of school,” Otter said in the spot.

October is cyberbullying awareness month.

In March, lawmakers in the Idaho House rejected a bill approved by the Senate requiring teachers and administrators to identify and crack down on students who harass and threaten classmates, including via electronic means.

The bill passed the Senate 25-8 before running into problems when Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, refused to give it a hearing in the House Education Committee.

Some representatives opposed the bill on grounds that it could add a financial burden to already cash-strapped school districts.

Jon Hanian, Otter’s spokesman in Boise, said the governor hasn’t weighed in on the merits of that bill.

However, the Republican governor believes Idaho is among states that have a problem with bullying, and that merits attention to keep children safe and secure.

“This public service announcement is one way he believes we can deal with it,” Hanian said. “He understands and respects that the Legislature is going to do what they’re going to do.”

Bullying has attracted national attention with court cases and documentaries exploring the problem.

A federal lawsuit was recently settled over gay and lesbian students being bullied in a Minnesota school district, and a Rutgers University student was found guilty of spying on and broadcasting a sexual encounter of his roommate, who later committed suicide.

Otter isn’t the only state official joining the push to raise awareness about bullying.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna also filmed a public service announcement underscoring the dark side of the Internet and the importance of keeping children safe from harassment.

“Too often, this same technology is used to harass and bully,” Luna said in his announcement.