Bill to make cyberbulling a crime gets a senate committee hearing

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

AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — State lawmakers heard emotional testimony Thursday afternoon for a bill that would make cyberbullying a crime in Texas.

Senate Bill 179, also known as David’s Law, is named after 16-year-old David Molak of San Antonio who took his own life in January of 2016 after being harassed online.

“In David’s case, they used Facebook, Instagram, regular texts, and videos,” David’s mother, Maurine Molak said. “He was devastated when he showed them to us and I took screen shots of those and went to the school and when I started digging into it I realized that it had been going on for some time.”

The Molak family told the Senate State Affairs Committee if a law like SB-179 had been in place, their son may still be alive today.

“I’m not saying this is the school’s fault, but I want them to be an active participant in helping,” State Senator Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, said. “I want everyone in the school to be an active participant.”

Menendez, author of SB-179, says he wants to give police the power to unmask anonymous online bullies and give school districts the ability to investigate off-campus bullying.

“It’s common sense,” Menendez says. “But people need a deterrent and they need to know their consequences, and that’s what we are here to do.”

Shakira Hamilton-Adams is the lead counselor at LBJ High School in Austin. She says an anonymous tip line would help students who might be too scared to report the bullying to her office.

“Bullying can happen 24 hours a day,” Hamilton-Adams said. “If students aren’t ready or children aren’t ready to talk to a trusted adult, then that would be a way to reach out and get some help.”

The bill was left pending in committee.

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