May 18, 2010 3:54 PM by Melissa Canone
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A prohibition on "cyberbullying" is
nearing final legislative passage, after getting approval Tuesday
from a Senate judiciary committee.
The House-passed bill by Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, would
create a misdemeanor crime that bans harassing or intimidating
someone under the age of 17 by text message, e-mail or posts on
social networking sites like Facebook.
Burrell cited six cases in which students have killed themselves
because of such harassment.
"We're trying to send a strong message to our young people that
this is no longer a minor prank. This is something that is leading
to the death of some of our young people," he told the Senate
Judiciary C Committee on Tuesday.
Senators added language that would require the intent of the
postings, text messages or e-mails to be "malicious and willful."
That still didn't satisfy Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, who said
that while he sympathized with the problem, he believes the bill
goes too far.
"Under this bill, a parent who gets really mad because a child
was bullied by some other kids calls the sheriff and can have those
kids arrested. I just don't think it's right," said Appel, the
only senator on the panel to vote against the bill.
The 4-1 vote sent the proposal (House Bill 1259) to the full
Senate for debate.
Anyone convicted of cyberbullying would face a prison sentence
of up to six months and a fine up to $500. If the offender is over
the age of 18, the maximum sentence is up to one year, and the fine
can reach $3,000. Subsequent convictions carry heftier penalties.