Greg Abbott signs new bill that would classify cyberbullying as a misdemeanor

“David’s Law” gives school districts mobility in the case of cyberbullying

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Story by Langley Leverett, Editor in Chief

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law titled Senate Bill 179 on June 9, that will effectively be instituted on Sept. 1. This law is more commonly known as “David’s Law,” an act named after David Molak, a 16-year-old boy from Alamo Heights High School who took his own life after suffering cyberbullying.

This law is aimed toward preventing virtual disturbances, and inhibits schools to actively investigate outside digital activity that may interfere with students’ welfare. The bill categorizes cyberbullying as a misdemeanor, therefore enabling court subpoenas and forcing invisible online harassers to own up to their faults and responsibilities.

Furthermore, it will require school districts to include cyberbullying clauses in policies and immediately inform parents if their child is experiencing this form of harassment. School districts will hereby be allowed to interact with law enforcement in the case of life threatening situations, and are urged to supply counseling and rehabilitation services for all parties involved.

David’s Law, encouraged by the David’s Legacy Foundation, is dedicated to spreading awareness to schools and communities nationwide of the danger and threat the internet can pose.

Texas High’s updated bullying policy falls in line with the requirements of David’s law.

“We have a policy currently in place that addresses bullying and cyberbullying that aligned to the new statute. As soon as we are made aware of a potential bullying situation, our campus procedures are to investigate, administer discipline as appropriate and contact parents within 24 hours,” principal Brad Bailey said. “We have a flow chart of bullying investigation process and take all matters seriously If cyberbullying occurs off campus and is a disruption to the educational environment, we will investigate and issue discipline as well.”

Many school districts have firewalls in place, to protect against adult and inappropriate material filtering through the networks. Texas High’s virtual wards are closely monitored and shielded against any threats.

“We do monitor our network closely – we know when VPN’s are being used to get around filtering, when remote access through browser add-ons are utilized – and some students were warned for such usage and others were even disciplined last school year for continuing those behaviors,” I.T. director Rusty Ogburn said. “Nothing online is invisible, whether it is on our network or at your house on the internet. The majority of the law is actually about overall mental health and wellness of students which impacts education in far greater ways than just the I.T. department.”

This new ruling helps school campuses to become a safe haven for students by providing a protected location away from risks of outside harm.

“I agree with enacting this policy because it will give students a more secure feeling when going into high school or the next grade,” senior Madison Browning said. “It will also be helpful to parents when they need to know if their child is being emotionally or physically distraught, and this policy will allow them to do whatever is necessary in order for their child to feel more safe and comfortable at school and online.”