A few days ago, Colorado’s HB1131, a proposal to crack down on cyberbullying, has been shelved in the Colorado Senate amid concerns of the bill’s possible infringement of first amendment rights. This move shocked the sponsor, Representative Rhonda Fields(D-Aurora) and the supporters, who said they will try again next year.
In response, Rep. Fields commented, “I am extremely disappointed and stunned, because it came out of the House with such strong support.” The bill had been previously approved in the House with a 54-10 vote last month.
In addition to the first amendment issue, the senate committee decided to shelve it for its concerns of imposing harsh penalties on young offenders. These harsh penalties would include the prosecuted juveniles having difficulty in finding jobs or applying to colleges because of their past criminal records. “We don’t want to overcriminalize kids who do silly things,” said Sen. John Kefalas(D-Fort Collins). He later added, “it’s not to diminish the gravity of this thing.”
To deal with these issues, the bill sponsors are requesting the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to study them and propose recommendations for the next proposal. Other lawmakers also hope that CCJJ also studies and recommends on other issues including “sexting” and “revenge porn” among minors. “Sexting” is the communication of sexually explicit photos through texting or the internet, and “revenge porn” is the distribution of such images to humiliate former lovers.
However, Rep. Fields was “perplexed” about lawmakers studying cyberbullying more before passing the legislation. “Study what?” she asked during a hearing in February where many youths shared testimony about their tragic experiences with cyberbullying. “The evidence is clear that this is a national issue,” Fields commented.