New legislation announced Wednesday would establish a penalty of five years' imprisonment for coercing another person into suicide.
Sen. Barry Finegold of Andover and Rep. Natalie Higgins of Leominster held a press conference to discuss the bill, dubbed Conrad's Law after Conrad Roy, the Mattapoisett teenager who died by suicide in 2014. Michelle Carter, Roy's girlfriend, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for sending him a series of text messages that encouraged suicide.
Higgins said that story "exposed a major gap in our law that we need to fix."
Finegold said that the ubiquity of cellphones has made it impossible for teenagers to come home from school, close their bedroom door and shut out bullying or other negative communication they may receive.
"Facing this reality, we need to set boundaries around what is and what is not acceptable behavior," he said.
Roy's parents joined the lawmakers for the press conference. "My heart is full, and I'm so proud of my son," Lynn Roy said.
Resources: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.