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Grieving parents push for bill to enable alerts for dangers on social media

WASHINGTON — Home videos of Sammy Chapman provide a snapshot of a young man who was described as sweet and curious by those who knew him.

The videos show happy times of Sammy fishing, celebrating birthdays and playing with his brother.

“He was nose tackle on the football team,” his dad Sam Chapman told our Washington News Bureau. “He was a big bruiser weightlifter and he always protected his little brother.”

But Sammy’s promising life was cut short in February 2021 when he was just 16 years old.

His parents say Sammy was contacted by a drug dealer on Snapchat who sold him what turned out to be a fentanyl-laced pill.

At the time, his parents had no idea about the transaction.

“A dealer reached out to our son on Snapchat and delivered something to the house like a pizza and it was a counterfeit drug and contained a lethal dose of fentanyl,” said Chapman. “We found Sammy dead on the floor. Tried to resuscitate him and failed.”

Sammy’s parents have turned their tremendous grief into advocacy, fighting to protect kids from the dangers on social media.

They came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to push for Sammy’s Law, named after their son.

“As I walk through the halls of Congress with his ashes around my neck, if you’d ask if I would be here three years ago, I would have thought you were crazy,” said Sammy’s mom Laura Berman. “Sammy’s Law is not going to save Sammy… But other children are dying every day.”

The bipartisan bill would require social media companies to provide data to a third-party safety service that parents can use.

The third-party app will alert parents about dangerous activity like searches for self-harm and drug use, or if the child is being cyberbullied.

“It would be irresponsible of us in Congress not to give them this opportunity to use this tool,” said Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Georgia), a co-sponsor of the bill. “If it prevents one death, it’s worth it.”

“I hope Sammy’s Law will be the start of Congress’ work to make sure no other family has to go through the pain of losing a child to online dangers,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Fla.), a co-sponsor of the bill.

Sammy’s parents said they firmly believe it’s the kind of law that could have saved their son’s life.

“We would have been able to interrupt that drug deal and I now know thousands of families who would have their children right now if Sammy’s Law had been in place,” said Chapman.

The bill sponsors in the House said they are in talks with Senators to get the proposal introduced in the Senate, too.

Chapman is urging Congress to pass the measure as soon as possible.

“There are a lot of bills going through Congress,” said Chapman. “I’m not sure how many of them would stop kids from dying but this is definitely one of those and if Congress has a higher priority than that, I don’t know what it would be.”

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