ANNAPOLIS, MD - Coping with the problems of bullying is on the minds of youngsters, parents and now members of the Maryland General Assembly.
Christine McComas knows all too well the effects of online bullying. Her daughter Grace took her own life after name calling and threats on Twitter and Facebook.
"I would beg people to understand that free speech should not cover the types of verbage that were aimed at my child," says McComas.
Delegate Jon Cardin is trying to help protect kids like Grace. He's sponsoring a bill to make it a crime to bully a minor online, such as on social media or through instant messaging.
"This bill goes a long way to making people, particularly venerable communities of people, feel as if they are being protected and somebody's making sure they're in an environment where people are being sensitive to their needs," says Del. Jon Cardin, (D) - District 11.
The bill would make it illegal to create a fake Facebook profile and use it to harrass a child. Bullying a minor online would be a misdemeanor and could carry a penalty of one year in jail, a $500 fine, or both if the bill passes.
Delegate Kathy Afzali, of
"There's bullying of my day, which was steal your lunch money and push you down in the hallway, but then there's this kind of bullying," says Del. Afzali, (R) -
She suggested an amendment to expand the bill.
"The bill right now may not cover the broader sense of that kind of hate speech, so we want to make certain that it doesn't have to necessarily be geared towards a specific person," says Afzali.
The amendment would make it a crime to bully a group, such as an entire school.
"I believe most people are good people. I believe that we all want to teach our children the golden rule, but the kinds of things that were aimed at my child are way beyond the pale, and she needed protection," says McComas.
The bill has 14 co-sponsors and bi-partisan support. That also includes Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was bullied in school. He's been invited to share his story during the hearing next Thursday.
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