A bill that aims to curb the effects of cyber bullying passed through the House Tuesday.
The bill, which now goes to the Senate, passed unanimously among the 200 state representatives who voted. All of York's representatives voted in favor of the bill, except for Rep. Mike Regan, R-Carroll Township, who was not present for the vote.
The bill would make it a misdemeanor to use electronic interactions to "repeatedly make statements or offer opinions about a child's sexuality or sexual activity or make statements that significantly ridicule, demean or cause serious embarrassment to a child under the circumstances," the bill's author, Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin County, wrote in a memo introducing the bill.
Law update: Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, said laws occasionally need to be amended to modernize them.
"This is a classic case of that," Schreiber said.
The law was last updated in 2002, but there was no amendment regarding cyber harassment, a term that has now become common because of the rise of technology, Schreiber said.
With increased conversation about cyber bullying and the House vote Tuesday, Schreiber said he hopes the "overdue" updates will bring renewed attention to a problem members of the House have heard about in the past several years.
"Sometimes having the conversation — shining the spotlight on this — is very helpful," he said.
Bully relief: Majority Whip Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, said he has been contacted by students and other constituents from York County who have been victims of cyber bullying. Some of the people don't fit the stereotype of who is normally a victim, Saylor said.
Bullying that used to happen primarily in school has now expanded, he said. With the age of cyber bullying, the 24/7 attacks can happen on social media as easily as they can in a school classroom.
"If you're being bullied, you can't turn anywhere anymore," Saylor said.
The bill is just a first step, Saylor said. School officials can't shrug off bullying anymore as "kids being kids," and neither should parents. "Major repercussions" can happen when bullying goes unchecked, including suicides and school shootings, he added.
Under the legislation, police and juvenile probation officers would review cases, deciding whether it's appropriate to refer the offender to juvenile court or take other actions. Adult offenders who cyber bully minors would be prosecuted in court instead of being issued the summary citation.
— Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.