Draft legislation in France wants to make school bullying a criminal offence, with a maximum fine of €150,000 ($235,000) and jail time of up to 10 years.
The proposed law was supported by education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer who said it was important to 'send a strong message'.
It's estimated that as many as one in 10 French children experience bullying, which Blanquer said leads to 'children's lives being shattered'.
The measure has been approved by the lower house and now needs to be reviewed by the Senate. If approved, it will be adopted in February and put France in the position of having some of the harshest penalties for bullying globally.
The new crime, 'school bullying', will apply to both children and adults in schools and universities.
It carries a maximum three-year jail term and a fine of €45,000 ($71,000) which increases to ten years and €150,000 if the victim takes their own life, or attempts to.
Brittany MP Erqan Balanant drafted the legislation and he says the law isn't about 'sending children to prison', but should help educate people on the outcomes of bullying and how they can be prevented.
"There is a justice system for minors that takes into consideration the accused's age and powers of discernment," he said, but added that criminal laws 'set the value system of a society'.
According to The Guardian, the new penalties are unlikely to result in actual jail time for children and will instead usher in new community schemes to support the end of bullying in schools.
The legislation will also increase resources for prevention and education and improve provisions for children to take part in community education schemes.
Some MPs have criticised the bill, saying it goes too far.
"We are not in favour of criminalising minors and increasing repression," said Michèle Victory, a Socialist MP.
The legislation comes after several cases of bullying that have ended in tragedy in France this year, including a 14-year-old girl who took her life in October after her mother said she was subjected to racist and homophobic bullying.
In March, another 14-year-old girl died after she was bullied following photos being stolen from her phone. Two teenagers were arrested following her death for allegedly attacking and murdering her.
Supporters of the bill say the introduction of mobile phones and social media has turned the problem of bullying into an epidemic.Featured Image Credit: Daisy-Daisy / Alamy Stock Photo