Cyberbullying Bill Should Pass

A bill approved Monday by the West Virginia House of Delegates may do some good to prevent cyberbullying of minors, if it is enacted. So the measure, HB 2655, is a step in the right direction. State senators should pass it, too.

But bullies, regardless of age, are endlessly devious in how they harass their victims. It will be surprising if these villains do not find creative, as-yet legal, ways to continue using the internet to hurt others.

The bill’s content helps illustrate the problem. If enacted, it would make it illegal to use a computer or computer network “to engage in conduct with intent to harass, intimidate, or bully a minor …”

A few specific types of banned behavior are listed. Harassing a minor by posing as one in social media, chat rooms, etc., would be prohibited. So would disseminating “private, personal or sexual information” about the person being bullied.

So difficult was it for those who wrote the bill to define specifically what types of behavior should be banned that they resorted to the catch-all of banning any online activity that “a reasonable person” would expect could harm a minor.

Good luck making that stand up in court.

Many children are victims of bullies, whether we want to admit it or not. It is a threat parents and guardians must keep in mind constantly, while keeping lines of communication with their children open. Swift, decisive action by parents, school personnel and, in severe cases, law enforcement can prevent tragedies.

Among those supporting the bill was Christine McComas, a Maryland woman who wrote to West Virginia legislators about her experience with cyberbullying.

Her daughter, Grace, was subjected to cyberbullying for about a year. Included in the attack were suggestions Grace should “kill yourself.”

On Easter Sunday, 2012, the 15-year-old couldn’t take it any longer. She hanged herself.

No, HB 2655 is not perfect. If enacted, it will not stop bullying. It may not even make a major dent in the problem.

But if it saves the life of just one West Virginia child, the bill will prove valuable beyond measure.

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