Cyberbullying is a hot button issue in Texas and the rest of the country after a spate of teen suicides. Legislation that aims to protect the victims of bullying is progressing in the Lone Star State.
House Bill 306 lays out clearer definitions of what bullying and cyberbullying are and how both court and schools will deal with the problem. The bill was filed by State Rep. Ina Minjarez from San Antonio. She said:
“You can’t turn a blind eye. I don’t want to see any more kids committing suicide because they’re victims of cyberbullying,”
Although Texas has statutes that can address cyber bullying such as the law that makes online impersonation a criminal offense, activists believe they don’t go far enough. The existing law does not allow schools to become involved if a bullying incident happens after school hours.
Minjarez’s bill would make it a Class A misdemeanor to bully anyone under the age of 18. Her bill would:
- Allow school districts to become involved when the bullying occurs outside school hours, especially at school sanctioned events after school lets out.
- Give all types of school the ability to set cyberbullying policies. It would encourage them to educate students on cyberbullying and then find out if it was going on at the school.
- Allow schools to set their own policies related to expulsion or another non-criminal consequence.
The bill would also confer more civil powers on parents who believe their children were bullied.
Another anti-bullying law was filed in Texas after the suicide of a teen who was bullied.
Alamo Heights sophomore David Molak, committed suicide at the age of 16 in 2015. He had been relentlessly bullied online.
Sen. Jose Menendez, a San Antonio Democrat, filed a law that would allow schools to subpoena computer information. Menendez hopes this would reveal the identity of online bullies.
He filed Senate Bill 179, known as David’s Law, which would also create a first time misdemeanor penalty for minors who use social media and other online services to threaten or harass other students.
New laws that tackle cyberbullying are being filed across the country as technology advances. However, the is always a danger that the line between free speech and bullying will be blurred.
If you have been charged with a crime of this nature, please call our experienced criminal defense team at (512) 399-2311.