Monday, May 21, 2012

Ramifications of Dharun Ravi's Sentence

Many in New Jersey and in the country have been following the criminal proceedings against Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers student who was convicted for spying on/broadcasting a romantic encounter of his roommate, Tyler Clementi, with another man. Clementi committed suicide, jumping off the George Washington Bridge, after it became known the encounter was made public. The sentence came down today: 30 days in a county prison, a fine and probation.

This sentence is considered rather tame by many and I agree with them. Considering the judge's comments, as well as Ravi's behavior throughout the trial, it does not make sense. While the book should not have been thrown at him, he should have done some harder time in a state prison and once done, immediately deported. Ravi is not a US citizen and the fact that he committed a crime should not allow him that privilege. A tougher sentence would have sent the right message.

This case brought the issue of bullying and cyber-bullying to center stage, and was the inspiration for the Harassment/Intimidation/Bullying legislation signed by the legislature and Governor Chris Christie. The HIB law specifically describes how school districts should respond to allegations of bullying in the schools, at school-sponsored events and online, as well as requires all school personnel to report alleged incidents of bullying. While the law is well-intentioned and there are educational visionaries in the state who have done their best to implement the law, there are many challenges in its enforcement; from its all-encompassing nature, and among them now, Dharun Ravi's sentence.

His rather light sentence sends the wrong message. Society, legislative bodies and school systems have, rightly so, strongly focused their attention on preventing HIB incidents, and unfortunately, the sails are now taken out of the implementation and enforcement of this law. Students may not take the warnings seriously, which may allow more HIB acts to take place, complicating the jobs of administrators and educators doing their jobs to implement the laws. Furthermore, the onus of liability will continue to be on the administrators and educators in a court of law.

With this decision coming out of New Brunswick today, it makes the job of an educator that much harder and we hope that more educational visionaries like Dr. Joseph Ricca (The East Hanover Superintendent who spoke, in the link above, about the partnership between the school district and law enforcement in reducing incidents of HIB) will step forward and lead their respective districts to properly implementing this law and negating today's backward steps.

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