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Texas lawmakers take aim at cyberbullying

The biggest threat to a child may no longer be a bully on the schoolyard but one out in cyberspace.

Youths at younger and younger ages are moving online with their taunts, ridicule, jokes and more. As they become more tech-savvy, they have more ways to reach out – cellphones, e-mail, chat rooms, and social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace – to mock classmates.

It's called cyberbullying, or electronic bullying, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said it's a growing problem, as the number of suicides of those taunted online rises nationwide.

Now a state senator wants it to stop.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, has filed a bill to add electronic bullying to the state bullying criteria to ensure that schools provide a measure of protection for victims.

"By passing this legislation," Zaffirini said, "we would send a clear message to students, parents and teachers that cyberbullying has no place in our schools."

Local school officials say they're worried about cyberbullying.

"It very easily is a way for kids to be mean to each other and rapidly spread rumors," said Kathryn Everest, director of guidance and counseling for the Fort Worth school district. "It could so quickly be devastating to a kid.

"This could be an epidemic in a nanosecond if we are not prepared."

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