Joey Bunch-- The Denver Post
A bill that would make cyberbullying a crime in Colorado passed the state House of Representatives Friday.
The measure was named for Kiana Arellano, a Highlands Ranch teen who tried to kill herself over bullying on social media harassment. Before trying to hang herself, she was a bright and energetic cheerleader. Now she is a paraplegic unable to speak.
"Her smile says it all," said her mother, Kristy Arellano, after the bill passed on preliminary voice vote Friday. If the measure passes a roll call vote next week, it would move to the state Senate.
Republicans said the bill was too broad and unenforceable because it defines bullying, directly or indirectly, on any electronic media as "a manner intended to harass or threaten bodily injury or property damage, or makes any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal by telephone, computer, computer network, or computer system, or other interactive electronic medium that is obscene."
The offense would be a class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $750.
Republicans tried to amend the bill to make it more specific and apply the law only to minors. Democrats said adults are bullied on social media, as well, including public officials.
"Say Peyton Manning throws an interception, and Rep. (Jovan) Melton goes on a message board and talks about how ... he sucks, he needs to be fired, he needs to be run out of town," said Republican House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso of Loveland. "Theoretically, Peyton Manning could have Rep. Melton arrested."
Rep. Tim Dore, R-Elizabeth, a lawyer, said he and other opponents were as passionate as Democrats about protecting children from bullying, but he characterized the bill as a constitutional nightmare that would chill free speech.