Legislation seeking to outlaw “cyberbullying” was quickly approved Wednesday evening by the Louisiana House.
House Bill 1259 would criminalize the transmission of electronic textual, visual, written or oral communication that is intended to “coerce, abuse, torment, intimidate, harass, embarrass or cause emotional distress” to anyone under the age of 17.
It’s local rep Roy Burrell’s bill and it passed 77-16. I’ve already said I oppose it, mostly because of overbreadth. But also because the criminal act is just words.
I wish legislators could truly understand the implications of making something a crime. It’s one thing to shout “there oughta be a law” when you see a terrible story in the news. It’s another to say you want to ruin the otherwise promising lives of countless young people to avoid another terrible story. In this situation, yes, it’s horrible that one young lady killed herself in response to bullying. But that was one student. This isn’t an epidemic. Whereas if this law passes, many, many, many students could find themselves with a criminal record for nothing more than name calling.
This morning, I’m going to have a conversation with two girls about the way they’ve been treating a third girl. They’ve been bullying her, the way girls do, by mocking her appearance, clothes, etc. It’s cruel. The thing is, though, both of these two are really great students. What they’re doing is out of character. My goal – one I think I will achieve – is to get them to see that and to at least agree to quit, if not to apologize. In Burrell’s world, though, I guess I’d just call the cops.