Anti-Bullying Bill Filed for Texas Legislature

San Antonio lawmakers open pre-filing season with David's Law today

Anti-Bullying Bill Filed for Texas Legislature
Photo by John Anderson

With harassment swelling in the wake of the presidential election, Texas Democratic lawmakers are taking the bull by the horns. Two San Antonio legislators have announced they intend to file an anti-bullying bill, David's Law, today, the opening day of pre-filing for the 85th Legislature.

Senators José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, and House Rep. Ina Minjarez, D-San Antonio, said in a press statement that the bill is inspired by the suicide of David Molak, a 16-year-old former student at Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio. Molak committed suicide Jan. 4 after months of cyber-bullying. In May, prosecutors said they were declining to press charges, citing that Texas' existing law is a "vague statute" when it comes to non-physical bullying.

Menéndez and Minjarez said that they have long been aware of bullying issues. Both met with the family of Matt Vasquez in the December before Molak's death. Vasquez had also faced bullying, in his case for having leukemia. Fortunately, he got aid from school officials and law enforcement. As with the Molaks, the Vasquez family and lawmakers were told by law enforcement that the current legislation is extremely limited in its language when it comes to online bullying.

Menéndez actually announced that he would be filing the bill back in August, and provided initial details. As planned, it will make online harassment of anyone under the age of 18 a misdemeanor, and require school districts to develop cyberbullying policies that cover student activities both on- and off-campus.

There are signs to be optimistic about its passage. Last session, the legislature approved House Bill 2186, which mandated suicide prevention training for public school educators, and specifically included bullying as a cause. The bill passed with bipartisan support, and was even sponsored in the upper chamber by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels.

That said, the bill as it stands faces an obvious speed bump. The draft proposed will increase law enforcement subpoena power when it comes to tracking and identifying anonymous users – an area that often causes electronic civil liberties activists to bristle.

This is far from the only bill filed today. So far, 198 House Bills have been filed, and 52 measures in the Senate. Follow the House bill list here, and its Senate companion here.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Texas House of Representatives, 85th Legislature, Texas Senate, Cyber-bullying, Online Harassment, David Molok, David's Law, José Menéndez, Ina Minjarez

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