Bullied by text messages: The story of hope behind Kiana's Law

Cyber-bullying law takes effect Wednesday

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. - A new law is named after a Highlands Ranch girl who was bullied, and nearly died after attempting suicide over hateful text messages.

Kiana's Law became her parent's way of turning something good out of something so tragic.

They are words that can be incredibly painful for anyone.

"You're pathetic," the anonymous text messages said. "Nobody likes you at school."

Some of the messages were so vulgar they couldn't be repeated.

And when you are 14 years old and on the outside a seemingly picture-perfect high school sophomore, cheerleader like Kiana Arellano, who on the inside was struggling with depression -- those words can send you into a spiral.

Anne: "What were your dreams for Kiana?"

"I remember she and I used to banter about her being a doctor or an attorney," said her mother, Kristy Arellano. "She was super smart -- good at school, personable, very friendly."

Arriving home from summer school two years and two months ago, the hateful words were just too much for Kiana to take. It was a Sunday afternoon. Only Kiana and her dad were home that day.

"I wanted to see if she wanted something to eat," said Ken Arellano. "When I found her in the other room I called 911 and started CPR."  

That's when Arellano family's lives were changed forever.

There were some times in the ICU when things were really bleak.  Because of a lack of oxygen, Kiana was left with a severe brain injury. To take care of Kiana at home, after she was released from the hospital, they moved her bedroom to the main floor. They have nurses in and out, figuring out feeding tubes, wheelchairs.

They still have their Kiana and are working every day to see what the next day brings.

They knew their daughter dealt with depression and were addressing it what they didn't know.. All the hateful words she was getting in text messages

"It wasn't until day two or three in the hospital after her attempt that her friend of hers came to see her and shared the screen shots with me," said Kristy Arellano. "I wanted to know who the person was. I wanted them to know how we felt."

But the law wasn't there to protect Kiana. No one was ever prosecuted for sending the text messages.  The family never found out who sent them.  Words of hate, protected by anonymity. 

"They stated that she deserved to die and they would help her," Kristy Arellano told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee last March.

"I have no way to tell if this person is still continuing their bullying ways," she said. "That's why it was so important for us to step forward, to somehow make a difference and make sure that this doesn't happen to any other families."

The legislature listened and passed Kiana's Law.

"When it was renamed after her she smiled and we knew we had definitely done the right thing." - Kristy

Kiana's Law takes effect Wednesday. It makes cyber bullying a misdemeanor form of harassment, punishable by a fine of up to $750 and/or up to six months in jail.

Need help?

Suicide prevention and information site:  http://www.sprc.org/states/colorado

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