SANTA FE — New Mexico's 89 school districts would have to devise policies to prevent bullying through the Internet under a bill that advanced Friday.

The proposal cleared the House Education Committee on a 7 to 4 party-line vote. All the Republicans at the hearing opposed the bill, saying it was redundant because school districts already have general policies against bullying.

Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, is sponsoring the bill. Stapleton said she was asked to carry it by students at Highland High School.

Democrats said the bill had merit, given that technology has created cyber bullying.

"It is its own animal," said Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, who is a teacher.

Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, agreed.

"Our current statutes, I think, are very thin," said Stewart, the committee chairwoman.

The opposing view came from Republican Rep. Dennis Roch, a school administrator from Texico. School districts do not need another anti-bullying law to augment the rules they have in hand, he said.

Stapleton's proposal, House Bill 54, would require the department to amend its rule to add cyber-bullying prevention. It would then send the information to public and charter schools.

A financial analysis of the bill says the necessary work could be done at no extra cost to the Public Education Department.

The bill moves next to the House Judiciary Committee.

Milan Simonich, Santa Fe bureau chief of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers, can be reached at msimonich@tnmnp.com or 505-820-6898. His blog is at nmcapitolreport.com