New cyberbullying laws go into effect Wednesday in Michigan

Change brings growing bullying issues into spotlight

SHELBY TOWNSHIP, Mich. – New cyberbullying laws go into effect Wednesday in Michigan, essentially making it a crime.

Penalties for bullying are even harsher if someone dies. The change is spurring conversations and brings a growing issue into the spotlight.

There's almost always some kind of digital discussion happening at elementary schools nowadays. In Utica Community Schools, digital citizenship is the name for learning how to stay safe online, not posting personal information, not talking to strangers and more.

Jacki Zawierucha is a media specialist in the district, and she said cyberbullying happens much younger than many people think.

"I would say probably second or third grade," Zawierucha said.

At Crissman Elementary, Shelby Township Officer Leslie Heisler had a conversation about the new laws.

"Once we tell people it's wrong, they have to stop," Heisler said. "Before there were no teeth in that. We'd say, 'Stop it,' and they'd say, 'OK.'"

The new penalty for cyberbullying ranges from 93 days in jail to 10 years in prison, depending how many times the incidents happened and if the bullying results in injury or death, officials said.

The new law also broadens how cyberbullying is defined, making it easier to prosecute.

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