ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—Cyberbullies in Maryland will soon face tougher punishment after lawmakers in Annapolis unanimously voted to pass Grace’s Law.
Monique Griego has more on what the bill does.
Grace’s Law is named after a Howard Country teen who committed suicide after being bullied online. The bill now makes it a crime to bully minors on social media.
For 15-year-old Grace McComas, social media was the source of constant torture.
Online bullies would bombard her with messages like “I hope you die. Go kill yourself.”
Then one year ago, on Easter Sunday, the Howard County teen took her own life.
“I saw what it did to her. We tried to help her in every way we knew how but were unable,” said Christine Pfister McComas, Grace’s mother.
After her daughter’s death, Christine McComas spearheaded legislation to make it a crime to bully minors through social media.
Thursday, in a unanimous vote in the Senate, Grace’s Law passed its final hurdle.
Ravens running back Ray Rice became a strong supporter of the bill after hearing Grace’s story.
“After that situation I felt that pain and felt it was time to get a voice out there,” Rice said.
Before the Internet and social media, kids came home to escape bullies. But now Grace’s mother says the hurt and pain they cause is constant.
“Now it follows them everywhere,” she said. “It’s as close as their phone, computer, game system, you name it. It’s damaging because it never goes away.”
Grace’s friends say many people don’t realize how hurtful words can be.
They hope this new law helps prevent more kids from suffering psychological, emotional or even fatal damage.
“It can really hurt someone. You don’t know what they’re going through. It can destroy their world,” said Jillian Reilly, Grace’s friend.
Anyone convicted under Grace’s Law will face a year in prison and a $500 fine.
There were some opponents of the bill who thought it violated First Amendment rights because engaging in social media is voluntary.