Texas families and lawmakers work to combat cyberbullying

Dozens join at the Texas State Capitol in support of David's Law, which aims to prevent and combat cyberbullying (KXAN photo)
Dozens join at the Texas State Capitol in support of David's Law, which aims to prevent and combat cyberbullying (KXAN photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s the first day Texas lawmakers can file bills for the upcoming legislative session and so far over 470 have been filed. On Monday afternoon, dozens gathered at the Capitol to support one in particular: David’s Law.

“They harassed him, they threatened him and took him to a point where he felt there was no more hope,” said Matt Molak, who lost his 16-year-old son David to suicide in January.

After their son died, Matt and Maureen Molak wanted his legacy to live on. They created David’s Legacy Foundation and teamed up with lawmakers to make change in Texas.

State Sen. Jose Menendez of San Antonio is one of those lawmakers and a sponsor of David’s Law, “I think this is an epidemic, a nationwide epidemic. I’m sick and tired of young people committing suicide,” said Menendez.

David’s Law hopes to prevent and combat bullying in schools through several measures, like requiring school districts to develop a system to anonymously report bullying and threats. The bill also makes it a misdemeanor to electronically harass or bully anyone under the age of 18.

“[It] gives police and law enforcement the ability to subpoena records, and go in and find out who did this anonymous thing? Who set up this account? Which IP address?” said Menendez. “Because in many cases I would bet that most parents don’t realize their child is either a bully or being bullied.”

Menendez says what they really want to do is get both the bully and victim the help they need, providing additional counseling and rehabilitation services.

“How do we get to these aggressors before they become worse? Because violent behavior tends to snowball, so it’s best if we can catch it at an early stage.”

Blaine Scott of New Braunfels, whose 12-year-old daughter committed suicide this past August, was also at the press conference.

Isabella Scott of New Braunfels took her own life in August 2016. She was 12 years old. (Courtesy/Scott Family)
Isabella Scott of New Braunfels took her own life in August 2016. She was 12 years old. (Courtesy/Scott Family)

 

“I don’t think the school district is doing a good job,” said Scott. “We never heard anything from the school district. We’d go in there and complain and say ‘Hey, this is what’s going on’, and they said, kids would be kids, boys would be boys.”

Scott’s daughter attended Church Hill Middle School in New Braunfels, part of Comal ISD. “Kids need to be educated on bullying, educated on how it affects other kids, and I feel the schools aren’t doing that right now,” said Scott.

Scott, the Molaks and other families say they’re joining in solidarity to try to help this from happening to others.

“We don’t think this problem is going away, we think it’s actually getting a lot worse,” said Matt. “David was a kind person, and he didn’t understand cruelty to others. I think he would be happy that this is going on. We hope that is his legacy, legacy of change and kindness.”

State Sen. Menendez says David’s Law will prevent and combat bullying in schools through several measures:

  • It will require school districts to include cyberbullying polices in their district polices on bullying and notify parents if their child has been the victim of bullying or is the alleged aggressor.
  • It will require school districts to develop a system to anonymously report bullying and threats.
  • It will give school districts the ability to investigate bullying off campus if it materially affects the school environment and it will allow schools and law enforcement to collaborate on investigations.
  • It will give school districts greater latitude to place students in a disciplinary alternative education program or to expel students for certain very serious bullying behavior such as coercing a child into committing or attempting to commit suicide.
  • It will make it a misdemeanor to electronically harass or bully anyone under the age of 18 through text messages, social media, websites, apps, or other means.
  • It will focus on providing additional counseling and rehabilitation services to the victim and the aggressor.

The 2017 legislative sessions starts in January.

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