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Anti-cyberbullying legislation protects minors

Special to The Dallas Examiner | 6/20/2017, 10:45 a.m.
On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 179 into law. This legislation, commonly known as David’s Law, is named ...
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Special to The Dallas Examiner

(Austin) – On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 179 into law. This legislation, commonly known as David’s Law, is named in honor of 16-year-old who took his own life after extensive cyber-assisted bullying in January 2016.

Effective Sept. 1, David’s Law addresses the need for Texas laws to keep pace with evolving technology. It requires school districts to include cyberbullying in their district bullying policies and notify a child’s parents if he or she is a victim or alleged aggressor of bullying. The law allows schools to combat and prevent cyberbullying by investigating off campus cyber-assisted bullying if it materially affects the school environment. It provides for schools to collaborate with law enforcement when serious or life-threatening cyberbullying situations arise. In recognition of bullying as a mental health issue,the law encourages schools to invest in counseling and rehabilitation services for both victims and aggressors of bullying.

Suicide rates among teenagers and young adults are at an all-time high. These rates correlate with an increase in cyberbullying, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The law was spearheaded in the Texas Senate by Sen. Jose Menendez and in the Texas House of Representatives by Rep. Ina Minjarez, who championed David’s Law throughout Texas’s 85th Legislative Session in honor of David Molak as well as Matt Vasquez, who was viciously cyberbullied during his battle with cancer.

“Cyberbullying is an epidemic in this country,” Menendez said. “David’s Law will focus on prevention efforts in schools while offering consequences to those who wish to exploit and harass our children on the internet. The passage of David’s Law would not have been possible without the Molak family, the Vasquez family and so many other families who channeled their heartbreaking story into positive change.”

“I am very happy that the legislature decided to work on such a bipartisan issue that strikes the proper balance between eliminating cyberbullying and helping kids who need it the most,” Minjarez added. “No longer will cyberbullying be acceptable in our schools thanks to the memory of those for whom this law is for. We appreciate the families, advocates, and all who made this bill possible.”

Moving forward, David’s Legacy Foundation will focus collective efforts around the education, awareness and prevention of cyberbullying through multi-faceted, interactive programs for teens.

“We are incredibly grateful to Gov. Abbott for signing David’s Law,” said Maurine Molak, David Molak’s mother and co-founder of the foundation. “We also want to thank our San Antonio community for their incredible support throughout this entire process. This is just the beginning of our efforts to put an end to cyberbullying. We will continue to work with school districts, law enforcement and teenagers to promote and reward kindness, character and empathy among today’s youth.”