BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The state of Maryland has passed precedent-setting legislation in prevention of cyberbullying.
Grace’s Law 2.0 sets harsher penalties for victimizing children online.
The House and Senate both passed the bill unanimously.
The General Assembly wants people to know that cyberbullying is not a prank, it’s a prison sentence.
The bill is named for 15-year-old Grace McComas, who on Easter Sunday 2012 killed herself, having been bombarded by online bullies and her parents having no recourse to stop it.
They championed Grace’s Law which imposed a year in prison and a $500 fine. But the language of the law made it difficult to prosecute.
Grace’s Law 2.0 changes that.
Baltimore County Senator Bobby Zirkin, the chief sponsor of both bills, has daughters of his own.
“It’s a statement, don’t abuse children online, do not send out tormenting tweets and Facebook posts and so forth, and absolutely you cannot go to the extreme of this epidemic of cyberbullying and kids taunting each other to commit suicide and so forth – all of that is now against the law,” Zirkin said.
The 2.0 Law ups the penalty to up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine, and 10 years if the target is pushed to suicide, and proving a pattern of bullying is no longer necessary.
“My guess is in another couple of years with new technology we’ll have to address it again,” Zirkin said. “But for the time being, this leads us ahead of every other state that has dealt with this issue.”
Governor Hogan is expected to sign the bill.