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Colorado cyberbullying bill fails in Senate

A Colorado bill that would have made inflicting "serious emotional distress on a minor" via social media or text message, a misdemeanor was shot down in the Senate. It had been passed in the House with a 54-10 vote. The Senate voted on April 9 to put the proposal on hold because there were concerns about the harsh penalties for young offenders and the possible infringement of the right to free speech.

One of the main points of contention over the bill was the possible long-term consequences a conviction could have on a young offender's adult life. It is not uncommon for teens to do and say things without thinking the situation through, and if this leads to prosecution for cyberbullying, critics of the bill say that juveniles may have difficulties getting into college or finding a job.

Lawmakers stressed the gravity of the cyberbullying situation, which has made the news as a national issue recently due to the media coverage of children and teens who have committed suicide or considered harming themselves as a result of cyberbullying. However, they indicated that the needs and rights of the possible offenders could not be discounted.

The bill's sponsors have asked the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to look at the issues and give recommendations on a proposal for next year. While juveniles can commit serious crimes, it is important to remember that legally they are still children. Laws, or bills being considered as laws, that are overly harsh toward juvenile offenders should be evaluated to be sure they are balancing the rights of those accused with the need to protect the public.

Source: SFGate, "Colorado bill cracking down on cyberbullying fails" Ivan Moreno, Associated Press, Apr. 10, 2014

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