Texas House passes Senate cyberbullying bill


Highlights

The House approved Senate Bill 179, which would criminalize bullying.

The bill must return to the Senate for approval before going to the governor’s desk.

House members reflected on their own kindness to each other this session.

The Texas House on Friday passed a Senate bill that would crack down on cyberbullying in schools.

A few House members shed tears as they delivered speeches about monitoring children’s online activities, preventing child deaths that result from bullying, and being kind to one another. The words on kindness were particularly poignant for some members as the Texas House this session has frequently engaged in heated debates on divisive issues such as immigration, abortion and transgender rights.

“It is time to treat each other with respect, and that starts here in this House,” said Rep. Wayne Faircloth, R-Galveston, speaking in favor of the bill. “You can disagree with my policy, but to attack me personally, it’s not acceptable. And the same standard goes for me in my interaction with you. We have to set the example here. It’s how we treat each other. It’s how we walk. It’s how we talk. It’s how we listen to seek to understand to make a difference.”

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

Senate Bill 179, filed by Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, would require public schools to create cyberbullying policies and establish methods for students to anonymously report cyberbullying. School administrators would have 24 hours to tell a victim’s parents about reports of bullying, and they also would be required to inform a bully’s parents if an investigation confirms a violation.

The bill also creates a criminal offense, starting with a class B misdemeanor but rising to a class A misdemeanor for those previously convicted of cyberbullying or if the bullying was directed toward a victim under age 18 with the intent to provoke suicide or self-harm.

The bill, which the House approved 130 to 11 on Friday, is named David’s Law, after San Antonio-area student David Molak, who at 16 killed himself last year after being relentlessly bullied. The Senate will need to approve the changes the House made to the bill before it goes to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

During his remarks, Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, held up the funeral card for Brandy Vela, an 18-year-old from Texas City who shot and killed herself in November in front of her family. Family members have said she was bullied and stalked.

“I kept it to remind me of why we do what we do here,” Moody said. “Young people aren’t just hurting each other on the playground these days. This bill isn’t designed to stifle free speech or criminalize something harmless.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Study: Uber reduces ambulance usage nationwide
Study: Uber reduces ambulance usage nationwide

A study by a pair of university researchers has concluded that Uber and other ride-booking services have caused a drop in ambulance usage nationwide, The San Jose Mercury News reported.  A research paper released Wednesday is believed to be the first study to measure the impact of Uber and other ride-booking services. The study...
BREAKING UPDATE: APD officer shot stabbing assailant, sources say
BREAKING UPDATE: APD officer shot stabbing assailant, sources say

1:15 p.m. update: Details are beginning to emerge about an APD officer-involved shooting in Northwest Austin on Sunday. Law enforcement sources say the incident began as a domestic violence situation. According to police, two men were critically injured around 10:35 a.m. Sunday in the 4000 block of Greenhill Place in Northwest Hills. One had gunshot...
When Harry met Barry: Prince interviews Obama for BBC radio
When Harry met Barry: Prince interviews Obama for BBC radio

Prince Harry and former President Barack Obama had some fun banter before their interview on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program, the BBC reported. “Do I have to speak faster? Because I am a slow speaker,” Obama asks the prince before an interview that will be aired Dec. 27. “No, not at all,” Harry responds...
Pope Francis criticizes journalists for reporting old scandals
Pope Francis criticizes journalists for reporting old scandals

Pope Francis rebuked journalists that report old scandals and sensationalize the news, calling it “a very serious sin” that hurts the involved parties, CBS News reported, citing an Associated Press story. On the eve of his 81st birthday Saturday, the pontiff said journalists should remember to provide precise, complete and correct...
FORECAST: Fog followed by sunshine, cool temps in Austin area Sunday
FORECAST: Fog followed by sunshine, cool temps in Austin area Sunday

Dense morning fog will make way for sunshine Sunday and only slight chances of rain in the forecast for the Austin area at night, according to the National Weather Service. Meteorologists Sunday morning have issued a hazardous weather alert for Travis County since dense fog is expected in isolated areas and could reduce visibility to less than a quarter...
More Stories