Lawmakers should address online bullying seriously

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Though 13-year-old Megan Meier’s death is tragic, no law exists, nor should exist, to punish the cruel and idiotic person who did what eventually led to her suicide. According to The Independent, an online news source, on Nov. 24, Meier was fine when she moved to a St. Louis suburb and made friends with a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans through her MySpace.com account one year ago.

The Meier family discovered weeks after her death, a neighboring family – whose daughter recently ended her friendship with Megan prior to her death – had created the fictional profile of Josh Evans to gain Megan’s confidence.

The ex-friend wanted to learn what Megan thought about her, and with the help of her mother, Lori Drew, and her mother’s temporary employee, Megan’s ex-friend used the fictitious Josh to call Megan fat and a slut. According to Megan’s father, Josh wrote to Megan “the world would be better off without her.”

The Houston Chronicle stated on Nov. 22 that city officials of Dardenne Prairie, Mo., “declared online harassment a crime Wednesday, fewer than two weeks after they learned of a 13-year-old girl who killed herself after receiving hurtful messages on a popular social networking Web site.”

The actual enforcement of the law remains to be seen. A city law making online bullying illegal has little to no jurisdiction on the Internet. The law only applies to the 7,423 individuals living in the Missouri town, leaving all other Internet users free to express their ill will.

Despite being underage for using MySpace, whose terms and conditions stipulate only people aged 14 and older can join – Megan’s account was monitored closely by her mother and father, both of whom kept the password secret from her, according to the Suburban Journals on Nov. 12.

Even with restricted, parent-controlled access to MySpace, Megan couldn’t be sheltered from the degrading comments Josh made about her. Struggling with the pain of rejection, Megan failed to gain perspective on the situation before she took her own life.

She had been battling issues with her weight, depression and Attention Deficit Disorder prior to her suicide. According to the Meier family, Megan had been on several vacation trips with the Drew family, and they were aware Megan took medication to treat her depression and ADD.

Because of this knowledge, the mother and daughter who bullied Megan should feel worse for Megan’s death, but they cannot be held lawfully liable.

The Missouri city law passed banning online harassment is no more than a slap on the wrist. The Chronicle stated, “violators face a maximum $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail.”

The Drews cannot be prosecuted under this law and any evidentiary support for a civil case was lost, as Josh’s account was deleted after Megan’s death.

Additionally, “the ordinance outlaws harassment using electronic communication, which includes the Internet, e-mail, paging services and mobile phone text messaging,” the article stated.

In the vast modes of communication, this law will not even scrape the surface against bullying. According to Suburban Journals, Megan’s father concedes “it was Megan’s choice to do what she did, he says. ‘But it was like someone handed her a loaded gun.'”

Instead of supporting this new law, Megan Meier’s family should be offended at this veiled attempt at justice, when underneath lies a mere pacification for one family instead of effective prevention of bullying.

Christina Forsberg is a senior in English literature and economics. Please send comments to opinion@spub.ksu.edu.

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