CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. – Delegate Jill Upson, R-Jefferson, today applauded Gov. Jim Justice for signing her bill that would protect West Virginia children from cyberbullying.
House Bill 2655, sponsored by Delegate Upson, passed overwhelmingly during the regular session and was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Justice.
“This law will help protect our children from an evolving and growing form of harassment and bullying that was not covered by existing laws,” Delegate Upson said. “With rapidly advancing technology and social media, we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to prevent the bullying of our children and protect them from having obscene materials posted about them electronically.”
The bill is modeled after bills passed in other states and named “Grace’s Law,” in memory of Grace McComas, a 15-year-old Maryland teen who took her own life after being a victim of cyberbullying.
“Cyberbullying can take a terrible toll on our youth, causing extreme mental and emotional anguish,” Delegate Upson said. “It is absolutely unacceptable for someone to go after a minor to torment or harass them, or create fake profiles of them on the internet. With this bill, we’ll finally be able to go after people who perpetrate these heinous acts and stop them before it escalates to the point where someone is ready to commit suicide.”
House Bill 2655 amends the West Virginia Computer Crime and Abuse Act to include cyberbullying of minors. It defines cyberbullying as using a computer or computer network with the intent to harass, intimidate or bully a minor by posting, disseminating or encouraging others to post private personal or sexual information about a minor or posting obscene material or images featuring a minor, either real or doctored.
Any person convicted of cyberbullying could face up to a year in jail and fined up to $500 for each charge.
Janelle Sperry, past president of the West Virginia Parent Teacher Association, said stopping cyberbullying is key to ensuring our children grow up to be healthy, well-educated adults.
“It remains a top priority of the PTA that our children receive a quality education in a safe environment,” Sperry said. “Before we demand that children meet our high standards of academic achievement, we must first ensure they are given the opportunity to learn in an environment that does not threaten their physical and emotional well-being.
“As adults, we must also protect them outside of the school environment, in order for them to live happy and healthy lives and become productive members of society,” Sperry said. “Cyberbullying has become an issue that we can no longer ignore, and with the passage of Grace’s Law, we will now empower parents, schools and educators in their efforts to protect students from cyber-abuse.”
House Bill 2655 is effective 90 days from passage, meaning the new cyberbullying law will go into effect June 8.