Paging through Loyola Magazine a few months ago, a magazine put out by my alma mater — Loyola University of Maryland, I recognized a photo of an old classmate of mine from the Class of ’87, Christine Pfister McComas.
I didn’t know Chris very well in college but remember her as being a steady and active presence on campus. Much to my sadness, the article was about the death of her 15 year old daughter, Grace. Grace committed suicide on Easter Sunday last year after repeated cyberbullying through social media websites. As the parent of three teenagers, my heart broke to read the incredibly sad story of how a happy and healthy child was driven to such despair after being bullied by a fellow classmate and neighbor over Twitter and Facebook.
Well, thanks to the incredibly brave and selfless efforts of Chris and her husband David (Loyola Class of ’85) a cyberbullying law, also known as “Grace’s Law,” makes it a criminal offense to use an interactive computer service, like Twitter or Facebook, to cause “serious emotional distress on a minor” or causes the minor to fear for his or her life or physical safety. Those found guilty of the misdemeanor offense face up to a year in prison in addition to a possible $500 fine.
Many kids don’t believe that cyberbullying is a real problem. Please share this story with the young people in your life and alert them to the fact that not only is cyberbullying unacceptable on a social and personal level, but that now, it is also illegal.
Our hearts go out to the McComas family for what they have been through and our thanks go out to them for their efforts to make the world a safer place for the children of Maryland.