Oklahoma State Senators Pass Anti-Bullying Law Amid Recent Youth Suicides

KOKH - March 18, 2024 6:06 am

Attorney General Gentner Drummond applauded state senators for passing anti-bullying legislation on Thursday, just one day after Owasso student Nex Benedict’s death was determined a suicide.

Senate Bill 1100 passed the Senate in a 38-8 vote.

Drummond said it’s evident that stronger anti-bullying measures are needed after bullying appears to have contributed to the suicides of 17-year-old Mustang student Jot Turner, and 16-year-old Owasso student Nex.

Drummond said, “Schools are seeing firsthand the crisis of teen suicide and how it can be stoked by horrific bullying. Laws cannot force people to be kind to one another, but we can ensure there are consequences to the sort of bullying that leads to tragedies such as those we have seen in Mustang and Owasso.”

Senate Bill 1100 would make it illegal for anyone to “threaten, intimidate or harass, or threaten to inflict injury, physical harm, or severe emotional distress” to anyone in person or through electronic devices.

First-time violators would receive a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail, or a $500 fine.

A second offense could face up to two years in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Repeat violations may face up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

The measure also includes penalties for people who are shown to be the “proximate cause” of a suicide or attempted suicide.

If someone was found to be the cause of an attempted suicide, they could face up to two

Anyone who is found to be the cause of a committed suicide could face a minimum of seven years in prison, and a fine up to $5,000 if Senate Bill 1100 becomes law.

Oklahoma Senator Paul Rosino and Representative Steve Bashore authored the bill.

Senator Rosino said “No child in our state should ever feel that ending their life is the only way to escape harassment or bullying. As cyberbullying persists and worsens, it is imperative that we prioritize the well-being of our youth and do everything in our power to prevent these tragedies.”

Data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health showed that between 2012 and 2016, Oklahoma had the 10th highest rate of youth suicides across the nation.

2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the Oklahoma State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services found that 23% of participants “seriously considered” suicide during that year.

The survey also found 10% tried to take their own life, and 18% of high school students who participated in the survey reported being bullied at school.

Anyone who is thinking of suicide or is struggling can call or text 988 to reach the crisis hotline.

 

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