Texas Senate To Vote On 'David's Law' Today
A cyber-bullying bill known as David’s Law could be up for a vote in the Texas Senate as early as Wednesday. It’s named for Alamo Heights sophomore David Molak. He committed suicide last year after a group of students repeatedly made fun of him online.
Until recently there appeared to be little opposition to David’s Law. Now some education and suicide prevention groups are raising red flags.
David Molak’s parents have worked tirelessly with bill sponsors to pass legislation that will identify and punish students who use the Internet to bully other kids.
Maureen Molak remembers how her son became more and more despondent as the bullies ratcheted up their online taunts.
“It was pretty consistent for a while, it would come and go but it would have the same tone, they would make fun of his personal appearance."
The Molak’s have worked with State Sen. Jose Menendez, a San Antonio Democrat, to craft Senate Bill 179 which has become known as David’s Law. It would require school districts to identify and track the activities of student cyberbullies. Menendez says schools would have to notify the bully’s family, and if the threats continued the bully could face criminal charges.
“We want to find out who these bullies are and get them the help they may need. In other cases if you continue to ignore what’s in the law, then you will be held accountable."
Austin mom, Merily Keller understands the pain David’s parents feel but she doesn’t support the legislation. In 2000 her own teenage son Chase, ended his life after being bullied. Keller went to work for the Texas Suicide Prevention Council and believes cyberbullying can contribute to teen suicide, but says it’s not the only factor
“It contributes, it doesn’t cause. And my heart goes out to that family as only one mother that has lost a teen to suicide can be concerned about another mother, but I don’t think this is the answer. We need to address cyberbullying but we don’t need to criminalize it."
It’s the idea that student bullies could be criminally charged that bothers Keller most. She says bullies are also among students at greater risk for suicide. She wishes the legislation was more about suicide prevention and less about punishment.
Bill Author Menendez says the legislation does both.
“And so it is a delicate balance because there is a lot of concern when dealing with minor, they are worried about the potential of them getting caught up in the penal system."
David’s law also faces opposition from school counselors because it requires them to serve as mediators between the person being bullied and the bully. Jan Friese is executive director for the Texas Association of School Counselors.
“That is an unethical and inappropriate role for a school counselor. School counselors should be involved in helping the child who was bullied deal with that trauma and work with the child who is the bully identify the root cause of bullying."
Menendez says he wishes the opponents had worked with him ahead of time to craft a bill that everyone could live with. Now he’s scrambling to ensure the legislation will pass, and the loss of David will lead to a law that prevents other teens from being tormented and losing hope.