Cyber-bullying takes a fatal toll on Howard County student

The childhood mantra, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me," is no longer true.

The words, once thought the weaker of the phrase, can now kill.

This weekend, The Sun published a story about 15-year-old Howard County student Grace McComas,  who committed suicide, a tragedy her family attributed to relentless cyberbullying she experienced in school.

Her death garnered national attention on social media sites, and among local celebrities, who helped spread the word about a memorial that encouraged the region to wear blue, her favorite color, on Friday.

As our readers know, this is a topic that I've reported extensively on since I took up the Baltimore city schools beat more than a year ago. My very first story was about Shaniya Boyd, a third grader at Gilmor Elementary who suffered from cerebral palsy, who tried to jump out of a third-story window to escape her bullies. The most recent story I've written is about experts calling for state leaders to strengthen bullying laws to better address the bullying of special needs students.

Special needs students were also the subject of the recent controversial, but evocative documentart "Bully," which was released nationwide on Friday.

But, unlike our past coverage, Grace's story focuses on a form of bullying that has not yet hit Maryland in a high-profile way.

Cyber-bullying has become more prevalent as social media and networking has become a preferred platform for teenagers to vent their frustrations, spread petty rumors, and carryout their verbal attacks in front of hundreds of their "friends" and "followers." In suburbs, where students have more access to technology, it's becoming more prevalent than ever, experts say.

According to our story, Grace's death moved Ray Rice, of the Baltimore Ravens, and he has committed to a town-hall meeting in Howard County to discuss bullying. The event is currently slated to take place in early May.

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