Cyberbullying has become more common in the United States, spurred on by the rise of the Internet. Two bills, one in the Texas House and one in the Texas Senate, aim to end cyberbullying by increasing the penalties for it.
The Senate bill, known colloquially as David’s Law, was written in response to the death of 16-year-old David Molak. Molak committed suicide after facing online harassment due to his leukemia. The law would require school districts to form cyberbullying policies and notify parents of bullying victims and their aggressors. It would also mandate the creation of a reporting system for cyberbullying.
The House bill, HB 306, would go a step further and make cyberbullying minors a Class A misdemeanor, with penalties of no more than one year in a county jail and a fine of no more than $4,000. It would also:
- Allow schools to get involved when bullying happens off-campus or after hours
- Allow schools to set their own cyberbullying policies and educate students on the problem
- Let schools determine what the punishments should be
The bill would also be helpful for prosecutors and investigators, allowing them to subpoena records from social media sites to preserve evidence and find out who bullies are who try to hide behind anonymous social media accounts.
While a Class A misdemeanor may sound like a minor crime, there are long-term effects beyond the penalties listed above. If you are ever convicted of another crime, you may face harsher penalties. Your employment opportunities might be limited, you could lose your immigration status, you could become ineligible for professional licenses, you might face lengthy probation and more. If cyberbullying becomes a crime and you are charged with it, you should discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney.