JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The death of a 13-year-old girl who committed suicide after becoming the victim of an Internet ruse has inspired a legislative effort to make it a felony for adults to harass children.
No charges have been filed in Megan Meier's death in part because prosecutors said there was no state law that applied to the case.
The teen's mother, Tina Meier, said it was unlikely such a law would have stopped the suicide, but said those involved may have been punished.
"Laws being in place are not going to save a child's life, but certainly no family should ever have to go through sitting here on a daily basis and knowing that these people are still next door and knowing what they've done," she said.
A neighborhood mother, her 18-year-old employee and 13-year-old daughter were accused of creating a fake profile of an attractive teenage boy to determine what Meier was saying about the daughter online.
She later began receiving cruel messages from the boy, including one stating that he did not want to be her friend anymore. Shortly thereafter, Megan hanged herself in her bedroom. She died the next day.
An attorney representing Lori Drew, the neighbor accused of helping set up the fake profile on the social networking site MySpace, has said that Drew knew about the account but did not know what was being said.
A Senate committee heard testimony Monday night on the bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Rupp, a Republican, that is modeled after recommendations from a special gubernatorial task force created to study Internet harassment.
The proposed law would punish someone 21 or older who harassed someone 17 years old or younger with up to four years in prison.
It also would require school officials to tell police about harassment and stalking on school grounds. And it updates state laws against harassment to include computers, text messages and other electronic devices, not just telephone or written communications.