Teen proposes cyberbullying law after losing friend to suicide

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COFFEE COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Gavin Benson is remembering the day he lost his best friend.

“I wanted to get out of the car and just run as fast as I could,” Benson said.

“I lost it.”

Benson says the past few weeks have been hard.

“I couldn’t say anything like goodbye or anything really just hurt me the most,” he said.

His best friend, 16-year-old Channing Smith, committed suicide in September.

Family members say classmates outed the teen on social media as bisexual.

“I really do not understand why they would make that decision and just do that to someone and just completely destroy them,” Benson said.

Benson turned his anger into action.

“I think I want to do something about this,” he said.

Benson and his mother are working with lawmakers to develop “Channing’s Law.”

“We actually started researching the laws and kind of getting a better understanding,” said Benson’s mother, Laura Trail.

If passed, the law would address bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment that happens while off school grounds.

“We’re the first to kind of get the ball rolling on this, but it’s got to start somewhere.” Trail said.

Under state law, it’s up to each school board to come up with policies and punishment for bullying, but it doesn’t specify a location.

“All school boards have to have in place policies to prevent it, correct it, eliminate it,” said Representative Rush Bricken of District 47.

Bricken has been working with Benson and his mom on the proposal.

He says he’s working with attorneys to see how they can move “Channing’s Law” forward.

“It’s going to take the school system, law enforcement, justice department all looking at it,” Bricken said.

Benson says he’s hopeful his idea will become law or at least send the message that words matter.

“I don’t want anyone else to lose another son or daughter like how I lost my best friend,” Benson said.

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