By Anna Duckworth

SACRAMENTO (KCBS) – Legislation co-authored by a Sacramento mother whose son committed suicide because of peer abuse would establish the California Bullying Hotline.

Lisa Ford-Berry’s son Michael was a bullying victim who fatally shot himself in 2008 on his 17th birthday, spurring her to write SB 231 along with State Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana).

The bill would offer children several ways besides the telephone to report bullying and seek help, such as text messaging, instant messaging and e-mail.

“The kids need to be empowered,” she said in testimony Wednesday before the Senate Education Committee, adding that the online environment is often where victims now get harassed.

Experts have found that technology amplifies the prevalence of bullying by making it easier to belittle, threaten and intimidate, making an online component to the statewide call center essential, Ford-Berry said.

“This is a way you can handle it without the whole school knowing it,” she said.

Jim Steyer, CEO of the non-profit Common Sense Media praised the initiative, saying it should be part of an overalls strategy that includes that teaching students to recognize peer abuse.

“Focusing on education and prevention is far more important than just locking up the offenders and taking criminal approaches to this,” he said.

If the bill clears the Senate appropriations committee, it would likely go to the full Senate before its summer break.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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