Texas Wants to Make Cyberbullying a Crime

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on March 03, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It seems that children have always bullied other children, despite the best intentions of teachers and state anti-bullying laws. And now that many children have taken their social lives online, they've taken their bullying there as well.

Cyberbullying is a crime in many states, and Texas is trying to join that list. Let's see how the proposed Lone Star State statute compares to others already enacted.

Toughen Up the Law

According to Austin's KXAN is reporting that House Bill 306, which rewrites the state's education code to include activities after school hours and electronic communications, is due for a hearing this month. The bill would also make cyberbullying a class A misdemeanor if the victim is under the age of 18 and allow parents whose children are victims of bullying to sue in civil court.

The bill's sponsor, State Rep. Ina Minjarez from San Antonio, says the new statute would allow attorneys to "serve subpoenas to the social media sites and they will preserve evidence [of cyberbullying] so it's not deleted," and change educational law in three main ways:

  1. Enable school districts to get involved if bullying happens after school hours, especially at school sanction events that happen after school lets out;
  2. Schools public, private and charter, will be able to set their own cyberbullying policies, they are able to educate their students on cyberbullying and then determine if it's happening in their school; and
  3. Schools can set their own on agenda in terms of if there's expulsion or whatever consequences the school wants to set.

"You can't turn a blind eye anymore," Minjarez said, "Some of them say you need to toughen up our kids -- that's not the way to deal with the problem. You've got a deal with the issue at hand -- we have to go in there and figure out why these aggressors are acting in that manner."

State of the Laws

Texas is certainly joining a trend of state laws and school policies prohibiting cyberbullying. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, only Alaska and Wisconsin lack bullying laws that address cyberbullying or online harassment. And only five states fail to provide school sanctions for cyberbullying. Another sixteen states have anti-bullying laws that can punish students for off-campus behavior.

Texas's new cyberbullying statute would bring it in line with many other states, and the growing need to address online harassment of students.

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