CALL 713.222.TIPS (8477)

David’s Law: What is it and who benefits?

As we have previously learned in Blog 1 “Let’s talk about cyberbullying month,” and Blog 2, “Cyberbullying, what is it,” there are actions which are considered bullying and some which are cyberbullying. Throughout the United States, cyberbullying is punishable by civil and criminal laws. In Texas, one of the methods of punishing aggressors is utilizing “David’s Law.” David’s Law was an Act initially passed as Senate Bill 179, and its codification into the Texas Education Code and Penal Code created the framework for how students who are victims of cyberbullying can be protected.

But why is the law called “David’s Law?” The law is named this way because of the life it honors and the motivation behind the movement. David Bartlett Molak, age 16, took his own life on Monday, January 4, 2016, in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. David was a son, brother, Eagle Scout and friend to many. David’s passions included hunting, fishing, professional football and playing various games with his family. In the last few months before his death, David became the repetitive target of relentless cyberbullying. The Molak family describes David’s experience as David becoming “overwhelmed with hopelessness after being continuously harassed, humiliated and threatened by a group of students through text messages and social media.”

The Molak family fought for David, as his aggressors harassed him. David’s schools made effort to intervene, but the powers to discipline cyberbullies was insufficient or altogether absent from the Education Code and the school’s abilities were extremely limited. The cyberbullying did not stop, ultimately David took his own life. After David passed, the Molak family – along with a support from the community – pushed the Texas legislature to address the void in Texas laws in regard to cyberbullying and enforcement. The outcome of these efforts was the advent of David’s Law.

David’s Law has empowered schools and parents to seek legal remedies against perpetrators of cyberbullying activities. Now there are civil and criminal implications for such activities. Now, aggressors can be punished for their behaviors, regardless of the location and time of day those communications occur. Now, families of victims have more tools, more support, more hope! Among other things, David’s Law requires each public-school district to include cyberbullying in their district policies and to adopt and implement districtwide policies and procedures that will:

  • prohibit bullying of a student.
  • prohibit retaliation against anyone who provides information about a bullying incident.
  • establish actions students can take to obtain assistance and intervention in response to bullying.
  • design available counseling options for victims, perpetrators, and witnesses of bullying.
  • create a procedure for notifying parents and guardians about bullying incidents (notify a victim’s parent or guardian within three business days after a bullying incident. School officials must also notify the parent or guardian of the alleged bully within a reasonable amount of time).
  • create a way for students to anonymously report bullying.
  • establish procedures and time tables for investigating and verifying reported incidents of bullying.
  • prohibit disciplinary measures of a student who is a victim of bullying and used reasonable self-defense in response to the bullying.
  • ensure that discipline for bullying a student with disabilities complies with federal law, including the Individual with Disabilities Education Act.
  • And more…

In the 2019 Legislative Update (86th session) additional modifications were made, affecting Public Schools:

1. All public schools are required to teach digital citizenship, including criminal consequences of cyberbullying.
2. Suicide prevention training will be done through health classes (Mental Health Bill & School Safety Bill)
3. Expansion of anonymous reporting to now provide anonymity to school staff.

We owe these advances in the law to David Molak and the Molak family. They have turned the worst day of their lives into a mechanism for community change and Texans owe you hugs and standing ovations. Thank you to Matt & Maurine Molak, the Molak family and the David’s Legacy Foundation. I am honored to share your story and this information.

Posted by Jammy Kiggundu, Attorney, Social Advocate and Cyberbullying Expert on 22 Oct 2020