On Tuesday afternoon the House Public Education Committee heard a bill that has been called David's Law, a bill named for David Molak, a 16-year-old who committed suicide in January 2016 after being cyberbullied.
Molak, a student at Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, was ridiculed on various social platforms by his peers. He transferred schools, but the bullying followed him.
Molak's parents, Matt and Maureen, helped state Rep. Ina Minjarez, D-San Antonio, and Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, craft matching pieces of legislation that would change elements of the education, civil and penal code to create consequences for cyberbullying.
Minjarez, when laying out her House Bill 306, explained the code changes in detail.
The bill would alter the education code to require school districts to develop policies against cyberbullying and promoting suicide prevention; to allow schools to investigate bullying off campus if it impacts a student's education on campus; to require schools to notify parents within one day of their student being bullied; to give schools the power to take disciplinary action against bullies and expel students when necessary; and to require schools to develop an anonymous system to report bullying and threats.
It would also alter the civil code to create injunctive relief and a temporary restraining order for bullying. Minjarez said it would allow victims of cyberbullying to seek quick relief from the courts. The code change would also create a new, pre-lawsuit subpoena process to unmask anonymous social media users.
This subpoena would allow individuals to discover the identity of previously anonymous bullies hiding behind a nameless digital handle.
Finally, the bill would change the penal code by creating an offense (with three tiers) that could be punishable by a Class A misdemeanor depending on the severity of the crime.
"Establishing offense is important so there are consequences to actions that harm our children," Minjarez said.
The bill does not extend to private schools.
Many of the legislators expressed shock and concern at the current state of bullying in Texas schools, saying students can no longer leave their bullies at school.
"I don't know what the hell is going on with our society," Chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, said. "We have to stand up to the bullies."
Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit that conducts studies issues of inequality, was one of the dissenting groups that sent a representative to testify against the bill.
The bill has been left pending in committee.