As I predicted, it was only a matter of time before we’d start hearing about new laws being proposed following Tyler Clementi’s suicide. Now Matt Friedman reports that a New Jersey legislator is proposing increased penalties for invasion of privacy.
While prosecutors are still considering whether to throw in some bias crime charges against the two Rutger students who were involved in furtively videotaping Clementi and then streaming the tape on the web, a bill newly proposed by Senator Shirley Turner:
would make the invasion of privacy offenses in which “a reasonable person would know that another may expose intimate parts or engage in sexual contact” a second-degree crime, upgrading the penalties to a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine.
The current maximum penalty for invasion of privacy is 5 years. Turner’s proposal may miss the boat, however, if it focuses solely on body parts or sexual contact. There are other things that can be equally devastating if privacy is invaded. Could we agree that a “reasonable person” would know that a woman might not want it widely known that she has chlamydia, for example? Could we agree that a “reasonable person” would know that a man who was not an active pedophilia and who sought counseling for his intrusive thoughts would not want that information revealed? Should their privacy not be taken as seriously as those who expose intimate parts or engage in sexual contact?
Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Mary Pat Angelini (R-Monmouth) said Clementi’s suicide illustrates the urgency to pass an “Anti-bullying bill of rights” that they plan to introduce shortly. The bill would create “clearer and stronger” deadlines and procedures for school officials to deal with cases of bullying.
Read more on NJ.com. We need to be very careful about knee-jerk reactions in the wake of this tragedy. Was this really a “bullying” situation that requires an “anti-bullying bill of rights?” While such a bill may have its own value, there seems to be some assumptions here about both the motives of the students involved and Clementi’s reactions to it.