States Seek Laws to Curb Online Bullying
By Justin M. Norton
Posted 21 February 2007 @ 01:13 am
Ryan Patrick Halligan was bullied for months online. Classmates sent the 13-year-old Essex Junction, Vt., boy instant messages calling him gay. He was threatened, taunted and insulted incessantly by so-called cyberbullies.
In 2003, Ryan killed himself.
"He just went into a deep spiral in eighth grade. He couldn't shake this rumor," said Ryan's father, John Halligan, who became a key proponent of a state law that forced Vermont schools to put anti-bullying rules in place. He's now pushing for a broader law to punish cyberbullying - often done at home after school - and wants every other state to enact laws expressly prohibiting it.
States from Oregon to Rhode Island are considering crackdowns to curb or outlaw the behavior in which kids taunt or insult peers on social Web sites like MySpace or via instant messages. Still, there is some disagreement over how effective crackdowns will be and how to do it.
"The kids are forcing our hands to do something legislatively," said Rhode Island state Sen. John Tassoni, who introduced a bill to study cyberbullying and hopes to pass a cyberbullying law by late 2007.
But laws? This would just add extra proof – if any were needed – of the concept that "Hard cases make bad law".