By: Leslie Barrows
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Attack on cyber-bullying: David’s Law helps students, parents, teachers and law enforcement
Unfortunate tragedy can lead to new laws, policies and a hope that a future tragedy is more preventable. When a 16-year-old boy takes his own life after vicious online bullying it became the dubious topic of discussion among Texas lawmakers. Online bullying has been a new problem for parents and educators who may not have foreseen the way today’s children respond to bullying on social media apps, text messages and similar means of electronic communication. Recently signed into law by Governor Abbott, David’s Law creates new rights and duties among schools, law enforcement, parents and students to more aggressively recognize and address instances of cyber threats and bullying.
Texas lawmakers working to keep our laws current and relevant
When Texas District 26 Senator, José Menéndez, issued a press release about the new legislation to prevent and combat cyberbullying in Texas schools, he emphasized that, “Texas laws need to keep pace with evolving technology. Students like David Molak and Matt Vasquez were being harassed and threatened on social media and not in the gym locker room.[i]”
The other boy mentioned in the press release, Matt Vasquez, was also a victim of cyber bullying and was harassed online and told to kill himself; he was being bullied for having leukemia. Luckily, Matt Vasquez found the help he needed to recover from the abuse. David Molak was not as lucky.
Online bullying: A sobering reality in present times
Lawmakers supporting anti-cyber bullying legislation appreciate the stark contrast between bullying in years past versus the electronically socially networked culture today. Instead of a few students witnessing bullying and telling others on the bus, today the bully doesn’t need to lay a finger on the student, instead creating an online threat or attack that can go viral among students and beyond before the children make it home on the bus.
With a social media aggressor hiding behind a keyboard and screen, even adults are subjected to online threats and bullying, the like we were not used to witnessing as grownups. The difference between adults and children can be night and day, however, with the amount of time we spend on social media, its real importance in our lives, and our mental and emotional maturity to handle a cyber bully.
Highlights of David’s Law: Policies, procedures, rights and duties to aggressively address cyber bullying:
- It is a misdemeanor crime to harass or bully anyone under the age of 18 by use of text messaging, social media and similar social networking applications;
- Schools are required to create cyber bullying policies and must notify the parents or guardians of any aggressor engaged in threatening or bullying another;
- Anonymous systems for reporting threats or bullying to school district authorities;
- Independent school districts have greater ability to investigate off-campus bullying in certain circumstances, with the aid of law enforcement cooperation;
- Options for disciplinary alternative educational programs and expulsions are available based on the severity of the online threats or bullying, such as telling another to commit suicide;
- Increased counseling and rehabilitative services shall be available for both victims and aggressors.
As the new law takes place, September 1 this year, there will likely be more information to share about the policies and procedures being implemented and how and where the impacts of the new law will be measured. If you have any questions about the new law or concerns about online threats and bullying, call The Barrows Firm.
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