Newton County State Representatives Pam Dickerson and Dave Belton welcomed the passage of two pieces of legislation this week to crack down on potentially dangerous cyberbullying.
Kelsey’s Law, which passed at the 11th hour on the last day of the legislative session, makes it illegal to identify a minor in an obscene depiction, while the End of Cyberbullying act explicitly prohibits bullying in school through any medium.
“It feels absolutely great,” said Dickerson, who first introduced Kelsey’s Law several years ago. “I’m glad everyone saw the need to work together on such an important issue.”
The law is named for Oxford resident Kelsey Upton, who, when she was just 15, became the target of a malicious prank when a former classmate posted her name, phone number and address along with a pornographic image of another woman online, and Kelsey was contacted by a registered sex offender in another state.
Upton and her father, Randy, a retired law enforcement officer, were shocked to discover that no law had been broken. As the picture was not of Kelsey, it was not child pornography. Kelsey’s grades began to drop as she faced bullying at school and constant fear that someone would track her down using her address posted to the pornographic website.
Rather than hiding, Kelsey and her family became advocates for closing the loophole, and Kelsey eventually finished school at the top of her class.
Dickerson said the bill had to overcome resistance from lawmakers who saw a potential violation of first amendment rights.
Belton also welcomed the bill’s passage.
“I’m excited for Kelsey,” he said. “She was very brave, and when she was bullied she stood and fought.”
Upton pointed out that while Kelsey was able to stand strong, some teenagers have committed suicide after being subjected to the same type of harassment.
He also congratulated Dickerson on the passage of the End of Cyberbullying Act, which she authored.
“I think it’s a great day for the children of Newton County and the State,” he said.
Both Belton and Dickerson praised the bipartisan support for both measures.
“Kids are being bullied through every medium you could think of,” said Dickerson. “We want a safe environment, especially in schools, because this is affecting their education.”