“Jeff’s Law,” a tough anti-bullying measure named after a Cape Coral teen who killed himself after enduring more than two years of Internet harassment, is finally a reality.
Gov. Charlie Crist signed the “Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up For All Students Act” into law Tuesday afternoon.
That signature officially ended a three-year battle by Jeff’s mother, Debbie Johnston, a first-grade teacher at Hector A. Cafferata Jr. Elementary in Cape Coral, to extend protection against bullying off school grounds to areas such as computers, cell phones and other telecommunications devices.
“I’m just really thrilled,” she said. “I feel like (Jeff is) happy, saying, ‘Job well done.’ It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Crist spokesman Thomas Philpot said the governor is considering conducting ceremonies for several bills this summer, including Jeff’s Law.
Statements posted on Web sites frequented by Jeff’s friends accusing him of being “gay” and “a stalker of many sorts,” among other things, tormented Jeff long after they were written.
He wrote in a note his mother found on his computer that he would “never get over eighth grade.” He killed himself in June 2005, after finishing his freshman year at Ida S. Baker High.
The law requires all Florida school districts to develop anti-bullying policies and empower them to provide counseling both to the student being targeted and the bully, including cyberbullying.
All three years, the measure easily passed the Florida House, but it languished in a Senate committee in 2006 and 2007. The Senate finally passed the bill April 30, just two days before the legislative session ended.