BERKELEY – Responding to a cyberbullying attack that contributed to the suicide of a local teen, elected officials are pushing for a law that would make it a crime to share images or videos of an attack on a minor.
The law would be named “Adriana’s Law” for Adriana Kuch who took her life after she was assaulted by four girls at Central Regional High School. One of the attackers took a video of the incident and shared it. Many kids at the school saw the video and, after her death, it was viewed by many more people around the world.
At the Township Council meeting, Council President John Bacchione asked for a moment of silence to remember her.
Mayor Carmen Amato said that he’s spoken to a number of residents in the past few weeks regarding Adriana. He wants an anti-bullying law named after her that would create legal consequences for people who share video or images of an assault on a minor, since sharing the attack is an attack in and of itself. He was emotional in his statements and had to pause to collect himself.
“I’ve spoken numerous times to the prosecutor and elected officials, students and educators,” he said. “We must do everything we can to prevent something like this from ever happening again.”
A resolution the council passed said the state’s “Anti-Bullying Law” is well meaning, but it hasn’t prevented harassment, intimidation or bullying in schools. There is a lack of repercussions for those sharing and sending videos via the technology that teens have.
The resolution was sent to leaders in Trenton. Amato is hoping to soon be one of them, as he is running for state senate this year.
The issue has led to a lot of strong emotions. In addition to sadness, there has been a lot of rage directed at the staff of Central Regional. Employees have received death threats.
Councilman Thomas Grosse, who is a retired Toms River police officer and whose wife teaches at Central, said that the school district has been painted unfairly by the public and the media.
“There’s no more bullying there than any other district,” he said. “Were there mistakes? Of course.”
A lot of the public had been asking where the police were when Adriana was getting attacked, knowing that there are officers stationed in the school.
“They can’t always be everywhere,” he said. “It’s no fault of the police department.” He said there have been numerous times that the police stopped bad things from happening at the school that you never hear about.
Police Chief Kevin Santucci said there’s been a misconception that the police weren’t around. They’ve had officers in schools for about a decade and always respond if they are called.
Some residents had questions about whether the council has a liaison to the school districts so they would be kept abreast of situations.
Santucci said the public and even elected officials are not told about issues happening if it involves a juvenile or if it’s an active investigation.
Amato said the majority of the council had been on a board of education and is kept abreast of situations as much as they can legally.
One resident said that she’s bullied by her neighbors in her own senior community.
One parent said that her son was assaulted by a group of students while he was sleeping during the elementary school’s trip to Stokes State Forest several years ago. This same parent noted that sometimes the issue is handled before it gets to the upper administration. For example, there had been a busing issue that was handled within the transportation department and the superintendent and board of education likely never got informed of it.
Councilman James Byrnes shared a horror story of what happened in a district he used to work in that is in another county. “This (expletive deleted) is going on in schools all over New Jersey and we’re going to end it here.”