Fight cyber bullying in Maryland

March 12, 2013

Maryland has little idea how much it owes a mother, a lawmaker and a football player. Christine McComas, Del. Jon Cardin and Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens are the driving forces behind the proposed cyber bullying bill that will save teenagers' lives. As the founder of the national crusade, The Monster March Against Bullying, I've written the tragic obituaries of more than 100 bullied American teens who in the last three years have committed suicide. Four of them, 14-year-old Kenny Wolf, 17-year-old Aiden Schaeff, 18-year-old Zoe Hauser and 15-year-old Grace McComas, are Maryland kids.

Monster March teens advise lawmakers on how to craft cyber laws that will actually get bullies' attention. We regularly monitor cyber hate. We train teenagers to counsel peers, many of whom say, "the bullying makes me want to die." All of our teens have either been bullied or have a sibling or best friend who jumped in front of a train or bus, leaped off a bridge, or poisoned, shot or hanged him or herself to escape deadly words that are craftily hidden from adult view.

And that's the problem.

The American Civil Liberties Union, most parents and the lawmakers opposing the bill have no clue how hurtful daily teen postings have become. As she stood before TV cameras, Grace's mom chose to read the tamer of cyber attacks against her daughter because the worst are too shocking. But your teens read it every day. Federal law protects social networks from bearing any responsibility of what's being written. Last April, when Grace, Zoe and Kenny were contemplating taking their own lives, The Monster March was urging Facebook to delete the account of a bully leading a gang attack against a 17-year-old girl who was threatening suicide. Facebook said "No." That same day, 14-year-old Eden Wormer of Washington hanged herself after two years of being Facebook-bullied.

State laws that define bullying and attach real consequences are the only current way to curtail the bullying causing teen suicide while also keeping more than 130,000 others from going to school each year. Please get behind this bill.

Christi O'Connor, San Francisco

The writer is founder of The Monster March Against Bullying

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