On September 1, 2017, David’s Law officially went into action, making cyberbullying a criminal offense in Texas. The law is named for David Molak, a 16-year-old boy who committed suicide in January 2016 after facing years of cyberbullying from his classmates. At the time, the treatment he faced did not fit the current legal definition of online harassment, which meant that his parents could not press charges against any of his tormentors. They worked to change the law and have David’s Law pass through the Texas Legislature. With the law in place, minors accused of bullying other minors via social media, the internet, or other electronic means will be subject to criminal charges.
What is Cyberbullying?
The Texas Education Code defines which acts constitute bullying. With David’s Law, these actions are handled with equal seriousness whether they are committed through electronic means or face to face. Any act that fits the following four criteria may be considered a form of bullying:
- It physically harms another student or the student’s possessions or causes the student to realistically far harm to him- or herself or his or her possessions;
- The behavior is persistent to the point of creating an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for the student;
- It disrupts the educational process for the student or others in the classroom; and
- It infringes on the victim’s rights.
A few examples of cyberbullying include:
- Spreading rumors about a student online or via messaging apps;
- Creating a fake social media profile to impersonate another student; and
- Sharing embarrassing or personal photos or videos of the student without his or her consent.
New Protections and Requirements Under David’s Law
Under David’s law, acts of cyberbullying that occur on and off school grounds may be addressed by the student’s school. When cyberbullying occurs off campus, the school may address it if it impedes classroom or other school operations or disrupts the victim’s ability to perform academically.
After a bullying incident is reported, the school must notify the victim’s parents within three days and notify the aggressor’s parents within a reasonable time period. Schools must now develop anti-bullying policies and reporting procedures that give students a way to anonymously report bullying they observe.
With this law, cyberbullying is a Class B misdemeanor. When the perpetrator has a previous cyberbullying conviction on his or her record or if the victim was under 18 and targeted with the intent to make him or her commit self harm or suicide, it is a Class A misdemeanor.
The law permits cyberbullying victims to seek immediate relief from harassment by seeking temporary restraining orders, temporary injunctions, and permanent injunctions from the court.
Work with an Experienced Dallas Juvenile Defense Lawyer
If your child is facing a criminal charge, it is important that you start working with an experienced juvenile defense lawyer to develop his or her defense strategy as soon as possible. Contact J. Michael Price II today to schedule your initial consultation in our office to discuss your child’s case further and determine the most effective way to proceed with it.