PARKERSBURG - With the advent of social media, the ability of people to harass and bully others has grown to levels never imagined before.
However, state lawmakers have said there are no laws on the books in West Virginia addressing these issues, leaving the issue to be handled through the policies of the West Virginia Board of Education.
Nationwide, there have been reports of teens and others harassed online so much they were driven to suicide. Other states have passed laws against cyberbullying, but some are poorly defined and can be viewed as on trampling on people's basic right of freedom of speech.
"A number of bills have been introduced (in West Virginia), but I don't think any have passed," said Delegate John Ellem, R-Wood.
Ellem said the issue of cyberbullying among youth has been addressed in state BOE policies which Ellem believes handle the situation in regard to schools.
However, the very nature of social media makes it difficult to determine what happens on school grounds and on school hours.
At A Glance
* Local lawmakers said cyberbullying is something they may be looking into soon.
* State lawmakers have said there are no laws on the books in West Virginia addressing these issues, leaving the issue to be handled through the policies of the West Virginia Board of Education.
* Lawmakers said there are concerns over how such laws could be written and enforced.
"There are also First Ammendment concerns and how bullying is defined," Ellem said.
With those kinds of concerns, Ellem would like to see the problem addressed in another way rather than adding more criminal laws to a system already overwhelmed and an overcrowded prison system where costs are continually on the rise.
"We really do need to look at other solutions," he said.
Delegate Anna Border-Sheppard, R-Wood, said she has not heard anyone mention the possibility of cyberbullying legislation during recent interim committee meetings.
"I think it would be worth looking into," she said.
The concerns she has had with developing these kind of laws include defining the laws themselves and figuring out how they can be enforced.
Delegate Tom Azinger, R-Wood, did not think the state had any cyberbullying laws on the books, but feels it is something that lawmakers will end up addressing.
"I know other states have addressed it," he said. "I think any kind of bullying needs to be addressed and looked into. There have been some awful tragedies that have occurred."
Azinger was not sure what kind of shape any proposed policy might take.
"Hopefully, we will be looking into it soon," he said. "We don't need any more tragedies."