David’s Law | New Cyberbullying Law in Texas
On June 9, 2016, the Governor signed SB 179 into effect—otherwise known as David’s law. David’s law, named after David Molak, a 16 year-old boy who committed suicide after relentless cyberbullying, was created in an effort to punish such reprehensible actions. In 2011, lawmakers added the term “cyberbullying” to the Texas Education Code under the bullying section. However, this provision did not create any legal punishment for cyberbullying. It only required school districts to develop their own policies to prevent and intervene in such cases. David’s law changes this by amending the Education Code regarding bullying to include cyberbullying as a criminal offense.
Full Text of new Cyberbullying Law
What is Bullying?
Bullying is a significant act(s) by one or more students directed at exploiting another student and involves any verbal or written statement, electronic communication, or physical act that results in:
- physical harm to a student;
- damaging a student’s property; or,
- causing a student reasonable fear of harm.
Bullying also occurs when there is ongoing, severe, and persistent statements or physical acts that create an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment for a student. Furthermore, cyberbullying includes such conduct that substantially interferes with a student’s education, substantially disrupts school, or infringes the rights of the victim at school.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying occurs when a person uses any electronic communication device to engage in any type of bullying described above. Relevant communications include, for example, statements made through social media outlets or text messages.
Where does Bullying/Cyberbullying have to Occur?
David’s law applies to bullying that takes place on school property, during any school-sponsored or school-related activity, or in a vehicle operated by the school district (i.e. a bus). Additionally, David’s law includes cyberbullying that occurs off campus and outside of a school-sponsored or related activity if:
- it interferes with a student’s educational opportunities; or,
- substantially disrupts the orderly operation of a classroom, school, or school-sponsored or school-related activity.
What are the School’s Responsibilities?
Schools must install a way for students to report bullying/cyberbullying anonymously. Additionally, upon receiving a report, school officials must report the incident to the alleged victim’s parents within three business days and to the alleged bully’s parents within a reasonable time.
Furthermore, under David’s law a school may, but has no legal obligation to, report conduct constituting assault or harassment to the police. A report may include both the name and the address of each student believed to be involved.
Cyberbullying will be classified as a Class B misdemeanor beginning September 1, 2017. However, the offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor, if the offender has been previously convicted of cyberbullying or if the bullying was done to a victim under 18 years-old with the intent that the minor commit suicide or self inflict serious injury to themselves. Additionally, a student charged with cyberbullying can face administrative sanctions such as expulsion or alternative schooling.
A Class B misdemeanor is punishable by a fine not to exceed $2,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year.