New Texas Legislation Addresses Cyberbullying Against Minors

New Texas Legislation Addresses Cyberbullying Against Minors.

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S.B. 179,[1] also known as David’s Law, provides new tools to address cyberbullying against public school students and minors. According to the bill’s proponent, Senator Menéndez, “[c]yberbullying is an epidemic” that is related to increasingly high suicide rates among young adults.[2] The bill is named in honor of David Molak, a 16-year-old high school student who committed suicide in January 2016 after enduring months of cyberbullying.[3] In addition to amending the Texas Education Code to provide schools with enhanced methods to address cyberbullying, the bill also makes changes to the Texas Penal Code and the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code (CPRC). These changes allow for the imposition of additional consequences on those engaged in cyberbullying.[4]

Penal Code

Under Texas Penal Code §42.07, it is a Class B misdemeanor to send “repeated electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another.”[5] David’s Law makes the offense a Class A misdemeanor if (1) the offense is committed against a child under 18 years old and (2) the actor intends that the child commit suicide or cause serious bodily injury to themselves.[6] The offense is also a Class A misdemeanor if the actor has previously violated a temporary restraining order or injunction issued under the CPRC’s new chapter 129A.[7]

CPRC

David’s Law adds CPRC chapter 129A, which allows a child under 18 years old, or the child’s parent, to seek injunctive relief against an actor engaged in cyberbullying.[8] If the actor is under 18 years old, injunctive relief can be sought against the actor’s parent and the court can compel the parent to take reasonable measures to ensure that the actor does not engage in future cyberbullying.[9] If the court issues a temporary restraining order or temporary injunction under chapter 129A, the court can also require the preservation of any relevant electronic communications.[10]

For up-to-date versions of the Texas Penal Code and CPRC that include changes made by David’s Law, be sure to see the new 2017 editions of O’Connor’s Texas Criminal Codes Plus and O’Connor’s Texas CPRC Plus.


[1] S.B. 179, 85th Leg., R.S., eff. Sept.1, 2017.

[2] See Senate Cmte. on State Affairs, Bill Analysis, Tex. S.B. 179, 85th Leg., R.S. (2017).

[3] Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Signs David’s Law, Katy News, June 13, 2017.

[4] S.B. 179, 85th Leg., R.S., eff. Sept.1, 2017.

[5] Tex. Pen. Code §42.07(a)(7).

[6] Id. §42.07(c)(2).

[7] S.B. 179, 85th Leg., R.S., eff. Sept.1, 2017.

[8] Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §129A.002; S.B. 179, 85th Leg., R.S., eff. Sept.1, 2017.

[9] Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §129A.002(b); S.B. 179, 85th Leg., R.S., eff. Sept.1, 2017.

[10] Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §129A.002(e); S.B. 179, 85th Leg., R.S., eff. Sept.1, 2017.

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