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Bill hopes to power down online bullies

Bill hopes to power down online bullies

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Lawmakers will hear a bill Monday aimed at powering down cyberbullying.

Lawmakers in the House Education Committee will hear House Bill 14-1131 that would define cyberbullying and make it a misdemeanor. It would up the penalties for cyberbullying that inflicts serious emotional harm on a minor.

Paisley Cawiezell and her mother Marcy Cawiezell hope the bill passes. Marcy Cawiezell describes her sixth-grader Paisley Cawiezell as a stellar student, a leader and a happy girl. She's much different from the daughter Marcy Cawiezell used to pick up after class in elementary school.

"It's devastating. She was changing right before my eyes. She was becoming unhappy and angry little girl. She was not thriving in school," said Marcy Cawiezell.

Paisley Cawiezell started getting picked on in second grade for her looks and her weight.

"I felt like I was like trapped and I didn't have anyone to go to because the kids would complain about me when I did nothing," said Paisley Cawiezell. "I felt like I had no friends.  I felt like life didn't have meaning. It was just a tough time and hard."

Marcy Cawiezell met with teachers and school administrators to try to end the bullying. When it didn't end, she transferred her daughter to a different school.

"When I had to change schools it was hard because the first day I got picked on," said Paisley Cawiezell.

"I was a little shocked at the time to realize bullying isn't something you can just move away from.  It is everywhere," said Marcy Cawiezell.

 Paisley Cawiezell transferred schools twice and then eventually enrolled in online school. She loves it, but Marcy Cawiezell was disappointed that was the only option.

"The sad thing to me is that that was the answer," said Marcy Cawiezell.

Paisley Cawiezell doesn't get bullied anymore, but she sees other people get picked on on social media sites like Facebook.

"(People are) saying in the comments, 'oh your hair is ugly, your face, why were you born that way,'" said Paisley Cawiezell. "It brings up memories of when I was judged for that."

Therapist Erica Laue said this proposed law won't stop cyberbullying. However, she points to domestic violence as an example of how specific laws targeting a certain form of violence have been very effective.

"Laws against domestic violence over the course of 30 - 40 years dramatically changed the way society views domestic violence. It's no longer a quiet problem we sweep under the rug and keep inside. It's something that we are increasingly talking about in a public venue," said Laue. "It hasn't necessarily done anything to diminish domestic violence but it has raised people's awareness of it and given us far more opportunities to prevent it and intervene in it."

Laue said cyberbullying inflicts the same amount of harm on a child as face-to-face bullying. However, cyberbullying is much more difficult for schools and parents to monitor. Laue said if the bill does become a law, its language must be flexible because the ways people interact online are constantly changing.

Marcy Cawiezell hopes the bill will help parents help their children.

"It gives them at least something to respond with whereas before you just kind of felt like you were stuck," said Marcy Cawiezell.

Lawmakers have introduced two other bills focused on cyberbullying. One proposal requires commercial websites that publish mugshots of people to remove the photos at the person's request if they were never convicted. The other bill would make 'revenge porn' a crime. Revenge porn is where people post explicit photos and videos of an ex online to humiliate them.


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