Senate Unanimously Passes Bill to Combat Cyberbullying
Senate Bill 128 criminalizes electronic harassment of minors
JUNEAU-Today, the Alaska State Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 128, sponsored by Senator Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage), which would criminalize cyberbullying of minors. SB128 makes it illegal to repeatedly send electronic communications that insult, taunt, challenge, or intimidate a person under 18 in a manner that causes fear of physical injury and/or causes severe mental or emotional injury.
“In some extreme cases, cyberbullying has led to suicide,” said Senator Kevin Meyer. “This legislation will give parents and schools more power to stop these bullies and protect our children from this cycle of aggression that can be so harmful and affects so many Alaskans families.”
Alaska’s current statutes allow for some forms of bullying to be handled within the school system, however not all bullying occurs on or near school property. SB128 includes the word “publishes” to include the act of posting something to a publicly viewed website, such as social media sites including Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, MySpace, etc.
“Bullying doesn’t just happen at schools, it happens everywhere,” said Senator Meyer. “My motivation for introducing this legislation is the horribly sad situation we are seeing in the Lower 48, where at least a dozen teen suicides have been directly linked to Facebook, e-mails and text messages sent from electronic devices our current harassment bills do not include.”
According to a 2007 study conducted by Cyberbullying Research Center on 2,000 middle school students, 17.3-percent said they had been cyberbullied, while another 17.6-percent admitted to cyberbullying. Finally, 12-percent of the sample reported being both a victim and a bully.
Under SB128, people convicted of cyberbullying could spend up to 90 days in jail.
SB128 now heads to the House for further consideration.