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I would like to applaud Gov. Tom Wolf and the Legislature's passage of House Bill 229, which will make it a crime to bully a child in Pennsylvania through electronic communications. The prime sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin County, believes that every child has the right to grow up in an environment that allows them to focus their energy on achieving their full potential.

This bill would mean that an offender of any age, who intimidates, harasses or threatens the wellbeing or mental state of a juvenile can now be charged and face a fine and possibly jail time depending upon the severity of the act. Comments on a child's physical traits, sexuality, mental or physical health are all punishable under this new bill; meaning educators from all backgrounds — cyber, charter, parochial and traditional — can have hope that the new epidemic of cyber bullying will be slowed.

Bullying is no longer limited to children pushing and shoving on the playground where a teacher can easily see and discipline the offender — it happens behind screens and through social media platforms. Students have access to platforms that their parents may not even be aware exist, but when they come forward with an incident of bullying, it is comforting to know that swift legal action can be taken to finally put a stop to serious offenders.

Students and adults alike must be taught that harassing someone in the digital age based on how they look, feel or act is wrong; and now with the passing of this bill there can be serious consequences for their actions. For some students this type of intense bullying can cause serious emotional stress, anxiety and in the worst cases, lead to a child taking their own life.

Agora Cyber Charter School is responsible for the safety and wellbeing of roughly 10,000 students across the commonwealth — a larger percentage of whom come to us to escape bullying they suffered at a traditional school. We take every measure to ensure the safety of our students. We have always been hyper vigilant about cyber bullying and have seen firsthand the damage that can be inflicted on students as a result.

This addition to the state Crimes Code and Harassment Statues is a long overdue step in the fight against cyberbullying, but it is certainly the right step that needs to be taken.

MARY STEFFEY

Board president

Agora Cyber Charter School

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