This story originally appeared in our sister paper, Out in SA.
On November 14, State Senator Jose Menendez and State Representative Ina Minjarez will introduce a law aimed at preventing and combating cyber-bullying. The bill is being filed on the first day legislation can be introduced for consideration by the 85th session of the Texas Legislature.
The new measure, dubbed David’s Law, is named after David Molak, a 16-year-old Alamo Heights High School student who committed suicide after being bullied by classmates on social media over his physical appearance.
Molak’s family will be present at the press conference in Austin with Menendez and Minjarez.
Also present will be the family of Matt Vasquez, an Antonian College Preparatory High School student who was being bullied anonymously on Twitter and Instagram after he lost his hair while undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma. Menendez says the plight of these two students prompted him to pursue the new law.
On August 19, Menendez and Minjarez issued a background paper outlining how David’s Law would work. The plan is for Menendez to introduce the bill in the Texas Senate and for Minjarez to introduce the bill in the House.
In an interview with Out In SA, Mendendez said Texas laws need to keep pace with evolving technology. Here is how he explained David’s Law:
“David’s Law will empower school administrators and law enforcement to go after and reprimand the bullies who prey on students, while focusing on rehabilitation. David’s Law will prevent and combat bullying in schools through several measures."
- It will require school districts to include cyberbullying policies in their district policies on bullying and notify parents if their child has been the victim of bullying or is the alleged aggressor.
- It will require school districts to develop a system to anonymously report bullying and threats. It will give school districts the ability to investigate bullying off campus if it materially affects the school environment and it will allow schools and law enforcement to collaborate on investigations.
- It will give school districts greater latitude to place students in a disciplinary alternative education program or to expel students for certain very serious bullying behavior, such as coercing a child into committing or attempting to commit suicide.
- It will allow law enforcement, through subpoenas, an increased ability to unmask anonymous social media users who send threatening messages or make threatening posts.
- It will make it a misdemeanor to electronically harass or bully anyone under the age of 18 through text messages, social media, websites, apps or other means. This section was modeled after Gracie’s Law in Maryland.
- It will focus on providing additional counseling and rehabilitation services to the victim and the aggressor.