Texas is one step closer to making cyberbullying a crime

FILE - School hallway (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - School hallway (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new bill that aims to protect victims of bullying is one step closer to becoming a law. House Bill 306 is expected to have a hearing in March. It lays out clearer definitions of what bullying and cyberbullying are and how they’re dealt with in the courts and in schools.

“You can’t turn a blind eye. I don’t want to see anymore kids committing suicide because they’re victims of cyberbullying,” State Rep. Ina Minjarez from San Antonio says. Rep. Minjarez has spoken with families who have lost loved ones to suicide because of bullying.

Current state law does not allow schools to get involved if a bullying incident happens after school hours.

Minjarez says her bill will do three things on the educational side:

  1. Enable school districts to get involved if bullying happens after school hours, especially at school sanction events that happen after school lets out.
  2. Schools public, private and charter, will be able to set their own cyberbullying policies, they are able to educate their students on cyberbullying and then determine if it’s happening in their school
  3. Schools can set their own on agenda in terms of if there’s expulsion or whatever consequences the school wants to set

On the criminal side, Minjarez says her bill will make it a Class A Misdemeanor to bully anyone under the age of 18.

Civilly, the bill will give more power to parents who have children that are victims of bullying.

“If there are parents of an aggressor that knows that their child is committing this type of behavior and they refused to put a stop to it, the family of the victim can bring a civil suit against those parents,” Rep. Minjarez said.

The bill will also give attorneys and investigators more power to find out who bullies are, if they tried to hide behind anonymous social media accounts.

“So as soon as the bullying begins, they [attorneys] can serve subpoenas to the social media sites and they will preserve evidence so it’s not deleted,” Rep. Minjarez says.

Her goal is to get aggressors counseling they need to put and end to the behavior, while helping victims get justice.

“You can’t turn a blind eye anymore some of them say you need to toughen up our kids that’s not the way to deal with the problem you’ve got a deal with the issue at hand we have to go in there and figure out why these aggressors are acting in that manner,” Rep. Minjarez said.

A similar bill filed in the Senate also aims to put a stop to bullies.

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