Bill on cyber bullying sent to Wolf

A bill that would make cyber bullying of children a punishable crime is awaiting Gov. Wolf's signature.

The legislation passed the state Senate unanimously Monday. A spokesman for Wolf said Tuesday that the governor would sign the bill.

The bill defines cyber harassment of a child as the use of electronic communication to threaten or repeatedly make disparaging statements about a child's sexuality, sexual activity, physical characteristics, or mental health. The statements must be intended to cause emotional distress to a child. The crime would be a third-degree misdemeanor.

Children who harass other children would be placed in a diversion program or tried in juvenile court.

State Rep. Ron Marsico (R., Dauphin), the bill's prime sponsor, said he and other legislators have been working for three years to get the bill passed.

Over the last year and a half especially, more parents, teachers, students, and residents from across the state have contacted their representatives stressing the need for such a law, he said.

Cyber space seems to have emboldened bullies and made the problem more pervasive, he said.

"We hope to put a stop to it by bringing attention to the citizens of Pennsylvania that this is a serious crime and a punishable offense," Marsico said.

Among the bill's supporters are the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, the National Character Education Foundation, and victim advocacy groups.

The House passed the bill on a 193-5 vote on Feb. 23.

The legislation would take effect 60 days after Gov. Wolf signs it.