Plan to crack down on cyberbullying clears state Senate panel

Michigan Public Radio Network

Michigan lawmakers are considering a bill meant to crack down on cyberbullying. A state Senate panel unanimously approved the measure Tuesday.

Michigan’s current anti-bullying laws do not cover students who harass others via the internet or on electronic devices.

“It becomes difficult to deal with those types of issues, especially when there’s not an educational element and an acknowledgement, even, that cyberbullying is a problem,” said bill sponsor Sen. Glenn Anderson.

“So I think this takes a major step forward with addressing that shortcoming in the law.”

Kevin Epling, co-director of the group Bully Police USA, testified in favor of Senate Bill 74 Tuesday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Epling’s son Matt took his own life in 2002 after being harassed by classmates. Epling says Michigan is behind other states in recognizing all forms of bullying.

“Nobody knew what cyberbullying was when we tried to explain it to people in 2005,” he told reporters after the hearing. “And now it’s like, how do you put the genie back in the bottle? Well, you can’t. It’s gone.”

“So now what we have to do is we have to do the best prevention models that we can to really educate the kids about what they’re doing.”

The bill would also require schools to report all bullying incidents to the state.

It now goes to the full state Senate.

Copyright 2013, MPRN