With the ever increasing use of social media and other technology platforms by adults and children, the issue of cyberbullying took center stage during the regular session of the Texas Legislature. This was especially true for Texas House of Representatives Member Ina Minjarez (District 124) and Texas State Senator Jose Menéndez (District 26), who together worked to pass senate bill 179 better known as David’s Law. This comprehensive legislation tackles issues plagued by children and parents alike who are dealing with the newest form of “playground bullying” now in cyberspace. Because of the importance of educating both parents and community members on the various aspects of this legislation, Rep. Minjarez took time to explain the major provisions of David’s Law to the Chamber’s Education and Workforce Council.
Articulating not only the need for the legislation, Rep. Minjarez also explained to committee members the challenges in bringing this type of legislation forward. “When we are dealing with not just one but three different codes, there is a lot of coordination amongst legislators and stakeholders that must take place in order to ensure the bill has a chance of passing,” said Minjarez. In this case, the three different code provisions modified under David’s Law include the Education Code, Penal Code, and Civil Practice and Remedies Code.
But why focus on cyberbullying? Rep. Minjarez articulated the tragic stories of families like the Vazquez’s and Molak’s both from the San Antonio area. Each case dealt with young people, who either during or after school, were harassed by classmates via social media sites and forced to deal with unbearable torment. But in each case, school officials, local police, and parents were limited in resources and remedies due to the gaps in Texas law to cover this type of harassment. “Those who were in positions to try to protect these children were confined to a set of laws that had not caught up with the new playground for bullying,” said Minjarez.
David’s Law now allows for school officials and local authorities to intervene earlier in instances where there are any reports of cyberbullying. Specifically, officials can now address instances of cyberbullying that occur on campus, off-campus if it is at a school-related or sponsored activity, school bus (public or privately owned), transportation to and from a school sponsored/related event, and off-campus if the activity interferes with the student’s educational opportunities or interferes with the school’s ability to provide those educational opportunities. Further, this new law will provide increased discretion to local prosecutors on charging individuals with cyberbullying offenses under the penal code as well as civil remedies in court for those families who are the subject of the harassment.
For more information on Rep. Minjarez and her team you can visit this link.