CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill making cyberbullying directed at minors a crime passed the Senate unanimously Friday at the State Capitol.
Senator Lynne Arvon, R-Raleigh, rose in support of Senate Bill 2655, saying she personally became keenly aware of cyberbullying as recently as the past couple of weeks.
“I have a newfound passion for this topic, as myself and several others in this (legislative) body have been confronted by cyberbullying in the past few weeks,” Arvon said during Friday’s legislative floor session discussion before the vote, alluding to the recently ended teacher and service personnel strike in West Virginia.
Arvon clarified by saying most of the bullying she experienced came “from others, not our teachers. But unfortunately, there were a few teachers that decided to engage in this behavior.”
“That was very harming and discouraging to me,” she added.
Arvon acknowledged West Virginia was viewed favorably as an example of how to protest appropriately and decently, as no acts of violence and destruction were documented.
“I agree with that outwardly, our state seemed to be a beacon to others (during the recent strike),” Arvon said. “But behind cellphones and computer screens lurked damaging and threatening actions that shook me to my core,” further describing the activity as “degrading and nasty comments…false pictures and outright lies.”
Cyberbullying affected Arvon’s physical health, she said.
“If cyberbullying can affect me at age 56, in such a negative way, how much more can it affect our children and grandchildren?” Arvon said. “Our teens aren’t mature enough to handle the harassment of cyberbullying,” she said, adding that it may lead to anxiety, depression and suicide.
Arvon cited statistics that as many as 43 percent of children have been bullied online. One in four has experienced it more than once. Seventy percent of students report seeing frequent bullying online.
Senate Bill 2655 covers both adults and minors who bully a minor child. The bill also covers several means of cyberbullying, including use of a computer or computer network, building fake profiles or websites and posing as a minor in an electronic chat room or instant messages.
Posting or encouraging others to post private or sexual information pertaining to a minor, posting real or doctored images of the minor on the internet, and signing a minor up for a pornographic internet site is also covered in the bill. Making a statement, whether true or false, that intends to immediately provoke, or that will likely provoke a third party to stalk of harass a minor is also addressed.
Arvon said though she supports the bill, perhaps even more action needs to be taken.
“We should be protecting all people,” she said. “As my parents taught me growing up, ‘Follow the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ We need as a body to follow the Golden Rule.”
— — —
For what has been an often dramatic and controversial few months at the State Capitol, day 59 of the 60-day regular legislative session proved mostly anticlimactic Friday.
Capitol halls and galleries were sparsely populated.
With the teachers and service personnel back in school and the budget seemingly ready for passage, the State Capitol was much different than just a week ago when national news media organizations were in Charleston documenting chants of thousands of striking state employees.
Senator Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, did take an opportunity during a Senate resolution discussion to express displeasure in what he called “partisan politics” during the 2018 session, claiming more than 80 bills “never saw the light of day,” never making it to an agenda, controlled by Republican committee leadership.
“We worked hard on these bills,” Woelfel said. “I’m disappointed to realize how naïve I am, believing that we would be able to work across the aisle.”
This article written for, and distributed by, the West Virginia Press Association.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU