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David’s law takes effect

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CORPUS CHRISTI -

The new David’s law took effect on September 1st. It adds protections relating to cyberbullying and cyberabuse of students. The law was named after sixteen-year-old David Molak of San Antonio who was so tortured by online bullies, he killed himself.

Cyberbullying is on the rise not only in the state of  Texas but throughout the United States.

It has become a big threat to young people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that suicide rates among teens and young adults continue to climb each year. C.C.I.S.D. wants to make sure that their students are protected both inside and outside the school.

The national suicide rate for girls ages 15 to 19 doubled from 2007 to 2015 or from 2.4 to 5.1 suicides per 100,000 population.

The suicide rate for boys ages 15 to 19 increased by 31 percent in that same time span, or from 10.8 to 14.3 suicides per 100,000 population, according to the CDC.

 “With so much social media out there today, we know students, even when they might not be doing it in the school, it is possible that it can be happening outside the school,” said CCISD Superintendent Dr. Roland Hernandez.

David’s Law requires Texas schools to intervene when bullying or cyberbullying incidents are suspected.

 “It helps give a real strong message to the students and parents, and especially the bully. This is serious, and there are certain lines you can’t cross.  Right from the beginning, we will be able to let those kids know this is serious, and we can’t go there, we can’t do that,” said Tom Browne Principal Dr. John Trevino.

“We have measures in place. If somebody is participating in bullying, we will address it to the fullest degree,” said Hernandez. 

CCISD provides an anonymous alerts application where students or parents can report incidents of cyberbullying through a computer or smartphone.

“Because it is a very powerful tool, we instigated it a few years ago, and we have the Report-a-Bully when you go to the CCISD website or any school website. You go to report bullying, and you will be able to give all the anonymous information there, and the administration will follow up, ” said Trevino.

This new law will empower schools, parents, and law enforcement to tackle cyberbullying.

How does it relate to cyberbullying of students?

David Molak was a Texas student who was harassed and threatened online. He was bullied on social media, not at school or in the locker room.

David’s Law empowers law enforcement and school administrators to pursue and address bullies preying on students. While the law focuses on rehabilitation, it offers solutions through the following measures:

  The law requires Texas school districts to create cyberbullying policies and to include them in district policies. Schools must notify the child’s parents if he or she has been bullied or if he or she is allegedly bullying another individual.

  David’s Law requires Texas school districts to develop systems that allow students and others to anonymously report threats and incidents of bullying.

  It provides school districts with the ability to investigate off-campus bullying if it “materially” affects the environment at school and allows law enforcement and schools to collaborate on ensuing investigations.

  David’s Law gives Texas school districts more latitude to put students in disciplinary or alternative education programs or expel students who commit serious bullying behaviors, e.g. coercing a child to attempt or commit suicide.

  Law enforcement has the increased ability to identify anonymous social media posters through subpoenas.

David’s Law makes it a misdemeanor to bully or harass anyone less than 18 years of age through social media, apps, texts, or other methods. Modeled after a similar law in Maryland, David’s Law focuses on the provision of rehabilitative and counseling services to both victims and aggressors.

How will law enforcement investigate potential cyberbullying incidents?

Under David’s Law, an act of cyberbullying is a misdemeanor crime. Investigators work undercover to unmask the identities of those who threaten others through the “anonymity” of the Internet. After the individual’s identity is discovered, he or she may receive a subpoena issued by a Texas court.

Schools will now be required to report student or parent complaints of bullying to law enforcement. When law enforcement receives notice of a bullying incident, it may proceed to interview teachers, staff, parents, and students to collect additional information. If law enforcement believes the law has been broken, it will authorize an investigation team to scrutinize social media posts, emails, texts, and so on. Criminal charges will be filed if a student has broken the law.

Public health statisticians tell us that cyberbullying crimes continue to rise. In 2011, Texas legislators added cyberbullying to the Texas Education Code.

Until David’s Law was passed, legal punishments for cyberbullies weren’t fully defined.

Now, bullying is an act in which 1)a student harms another student, 2) results in one student damaging the property of another, or 3) a student is placed in a state of “reasonable” concern of harm.

A verbal, physical, written, or electronic communication may be considered bullying under the law. If a student causes his or her peer to feel fear, or threatens the student’s ability to focus on learning at school, or actually creates a disruption of the school’s usual functions, this is considered bullying under the law.

David’s Law is designed to both prevent and educate would-be cyberbullies. School districts in Texas will implement mental health programs that target cyberbullying behaviors and suicide prevention.

On September 1, 2017, cyberbullying offenders face Class B misdemeanor charges in Texas. If convicted, the defendant faces a six-month jail sentence plus a maximum $2,000 fine. In some instances, the charge may be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor.

If the offender has a prior record of bullying, or if the offender has bullied someone less than 18 years old for the express purpose of encouraging the victim to commit suicide or injure himself, he or she will face 12 months in jail plus a maximum $4,000 fine. In addition, he or she faces enrollment in an alternative education program or expulsion from his or her current school.

If you or someone you love is charged with cyberbullying, it’s crucial to reach out to an experienced cyberbullying attorney as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney can positively affect the outcome of your case and will vigorously protect your legal rights.

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