School bullies who use the Internet or text messaging to harass fellow students could be kicked out of school under a bill being considered by the California Legislature.
Assembly Bill 86, introduced by Assemblyman Ted Lieu of Torrance, passed the Senate on Monday by a 21-11 vote and now heads back to the Assembly for consideration of Senate amendments, according to an Associated Press report. If the Assembly approves the Senate amendments, the bill will be sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Lieu's bill would allow students to be suspended or expelled from school for bullying that occurs via electronic communication, including cell phones, computers, or pagers.
Experts say the biggest obstacle to combating cyberbullying is that children are unlikely to report it. Unlike real-life bullying, there is often no witness or physical scar to alert parents or teachers to a cyberbullying situation.
The issue came to national focus last year when a newspaper reported the details a cyberbullying incident in which a teenage girl committed suicide. Megan Meier, who had a history of depression, hanged herself in 2006 after a falling out with someone named "Josh" whom she thought was a 16-year-old boy on MySpace. As it turns out, "Josh" didn't exist; the persona was allegedly created by a woman named Lori Drew, the mother of one of Meier's former friends, to harass the girl.
In November, Meier's hometown of Dardenne Prairie, Mo., passed a law banning online harassment. Offenders can face up to 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, or both.