When his teenage daughter committed suicide because of cyberbullying, this Texas father demanded legislative action to help others who are suffering from the same torture.
Brandy Vela, just eighteen years old, shot herself in front of her family after being subjected to months taunting by cyber bullies. Her father, Raul Vela, wants justice for his daughter. “I want to see these people get locked up,” said Raul Vela. “I hope they get what they deserve because I did not deserve this.”
Here’s how Raul Vela is fighting back.
Brandy Vela’s family is mourning. The eighteen-year-old Texas teen shot herself last week after succumbing to the pressures and tortures of cyber bullying. Brandy’s high school senior picture was sent around social media sites with derogatory comments posted about her. “They set up an account saying she was soliciting sex,” Mr. Vela said. He said some nights her phone would be ring off the hook and be full of harassing messages.
Before her suicide, Brandy sent messages to her family telling them she planned to kill herself. They rushed home to stop her. Instead, they arrived in time for her to commit the act in their presence. Texas considers harassment and bullying via “online communications” to be a misdemeanor, but Mr. Vela is pushing for the penalties to be strengthened. A new bill has been introduced into the state legislature aiming to help do so.
The time has come for our entire nation to address the issue of bullying. What was long considered a natural part of growing up has now become a national discussion on how to create safe places and nurturing environments for our children.
The behavior of children is both something they learn through observing adults and can be redirected through the proper measures; one Wisconsin town has come up with an interesting plan to stop bullies. The Shawano City Council just approved a new ordinance that allows the local police department to intervene in cases of bullying. The law applies to any child under eighteen years old. It is designed to target all types of harassment, from stealing lunch money to cyberbullying.
The parents of minors accused of these actions will receive a warning and a ninety-day probationary term in which to change their child’s behavior. If their behavior does not change, the parent will receive a $366 fine for the first offense and $681 fine for each repeat offense.
The point is that that bullying both begins at home and needs to be dealt with by the parents. A majority of parents in town seem to appreciate such a measure, but there are a few who find it problematic.
Critics say that the issue of bullying is too subjective. They try to differentiate between harmless banter and teasing, and more aggressive harassment. They contend that it not a clear line and cannot be enforced. Fining parents does not necessarily impact the children who engage in bullying.
Shawano Police Chief Mark Kohl has responded to these criticisms, saying “This is not generated towards the kids being kids, some playground banter. This is the person that is meticulously using social media or saying things that are vulgar in an attempt to hurt.”
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