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The 2011 Regular Session of the General Assembly is adjourned. Summarized below are some of the highlights. Please call or write if you have questions or if I can be of assistance to you.
Education Reforms Enacted
As the new Senate Chair of the Education Committee, I’m gratified by many legislative successes to improve our schools. One new law will strengthen our state’s ability to curb school bullying by including cyber-bullying as a prohibited behavior.
Cyber-bullying, which is defined as hostile, threatening, or abusive behavior using electronic devices, can be anonymous and take many forms beyond threats and intimidation. It includes hacking into a victim’s computer, posing as a victim to set him or her up for further abuse, even running up excessive charges for text messages. The law confronts this problem and helps school officials combat an epidemic said to be limited only by the imagination and bandwidth of the bullies themselves.
Young Scientists Day at the Capitol
As end-of-session deadlines approached, I was pleased to spend some time co-hosting science students at the Capitol. Hands-on experiments and demonstrations were conducted for grade-school students to deliver memorable lessons in scientific exploration and discovery.
Tabletop displays and laboratories were available through Little Scientists, Inc., a Connecticut-based company that developed curricula and other learning techniques used internationally to teach students about the “magic of science.” Locally, the East Lyme public schools avail themselves of this innovative approach.
Hands-on, practical learning techniques exemplify the age-old lesson about how giving a student a fish allows him or her to eat that day, but teaching that student how to fish provides him or her food for a lifetime.
My sense is that programs like this can help our state close its education achievement gap in the short term and in the longer term generate jobs in health care, technology and other science-related sectors of the economy.
New Law to Limit Distribution of Graphic Crime Scene Images
Another new law, with a local history, will limit the creation and distribution of images of crime and accident victims. The law creates criminal penalties for using a personal device to create an image of a crime or accident victim and transmitting that image to private individuals.
I introduced the original bill in response to the heartrending story of a Waterford family already trying to cope with the unfathomable loss of their son. The 20-year-old man had enlisted in the Army and was about to be deployed to Afghanistan; the shock of his untimely death was grossly compounded by a New London police officer who photographed the accident scene and sent the images to a few friends.
The heroic efforts of first responders—whether in law enforcement, firefighting or emergency medical services—cannot be overstated. This new law simply reminds them to stay respectful of the victims they encounter and the families of those victims. Prohibiting first responders from taking or distributing unauthorized images of the victims ensures sensitivity to the fallout any of these graphic images could generate.