Legislature takes up bullying as crime

SANTA FE (KRQE) — The days of school yard bullying could be entering new territory.

If Rep. Mary Helen Garcia , D-Las Cruces, her way bullies could be heading to the principal's office and to jail, too.

But this law wouldn't just affect kids.  Adults also could be on the hook too.

Garcia told KRQE News 13 the Internet and mobile devices have made bullying far easier.  It's time the state put something on the books to try and stop it, she said.

Garcia's bill , if it becomes law, would make bullying a misdemeanor in New Mexico whether it's done online or in person.

That would mean someone convicted of bullying could get up to a year in prison.

Garcia said the change is important because of cases like that of a Roosevelt Middle School student who shot himself in the head last year.  Albuquerque investigators said bullying was a big factor.

"Bullying can affect adults just as well as it can children," Garcia said.

It's happening across the country.

In 2006, a Missouri mom used MySpace to bully a 13-year-old who ultimately committed suicide.

Missouri state prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to show the mother violated any state law.

Garcia wants to be sure New Mexico prosecutors don't run into the same problem.

"It's very important now ... considering the suicides that are taking place not only in the state but nationally" Garcia said.

Garcia believes making bullying its own crime would help victims come forward and make sure bullies are held accountable.

"They would have to take responsibility for their own actions," Garcia said.

Garcia tried a similar bill two years ago, but it died in the House Judiciary Committee, the same committee it has to go through this year.

Gov. Susana Martinez expressed skepticism in a statement saying many elements of bullying are already crimes and that prosecuting some forms of bullying could be difficult.

Garcia's bill isn't the only one tackling bullying.

Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton , D-Albuquerque, has a bill that would require all school districts to create policies to prevent cyberbullying.

Copyright 2014 KRQE TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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New Mexico (change)

New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.
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Governor: Susana Martinez
Lieutenant Governor: John Sanchez
Attorney General: Gary King
Secretary of State: Dianna J. Durán

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