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Colorado Lawmakers Prepare To Tackle Cyber Bullying

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DENVER (CBS4)- Some state lawmakers are working to make sure Colorado’s kids are more protected against cyber bullying.

Right now here is nothing in Colorado’s criminal code that addresses cyber bullying.

District attorneys have brought charges of harassment but statutorily it doesn’t exactly fit the crime.

The gap in the statutes has lawmakers worried as cyber bullying is linked to extreme consequences.

In Florida a 12-year-old girl jumped to her death after being the target of months of online bullying.

In California a 15-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted at a party committed suicide after pictures of the assault turned up on the internet.

In Canada a 17-year-old hanged herself after photos showing her as the victim of a gang rape were emailed to everyone at school.

Stories of cyber bullying have become depressingly familiar and Colorado is the latest state to consider legislation addressing it.

“It just hurts me to see the headlines about far too many kids who are harmed and intimidated and threatened by what they see on Facebook or texting,” said Rhonda Fields, a Democrat representing Aurora.

Fields has introduced a bill that would define cyber bullying by kids as harassment.

In a bill introduced by Rep. Amy Stephens, if sexually explicit photos are involved it would be a felony.

“Lives are at stake,” said Stephens, a Republican representing Colorado Springs.

Stephens said her bill is meant to address cases of a teenage boy, for example, posting nude pictures of his ex-girlfriend to humiliate her.

“This prompts investigation because it becomes a felony and very often we haven’t had direction on this issue,” said Stephens.

Under that bill the felony charge would carry a mandatory $10,000 fine. That money would go to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office for Prevention of Cyber Bullying.

The site where the photos are posted would be court ordered to take them down.

It also brings Colorado’s laws into the digital age, especially when kids are involved.

“As a state we need to be doing all that’s possible to protect our most precious resources– that’s our kids,” said Fields.

A total of 18 states have laws on cyber bullying.

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