Bill aimed at combating cyberbullying heads to governor's office

SB 179, also known as David's Law named for David Molak, a local student who took his own life at just 16 years old, has passed with majority House votes and a unanimous Senate vote. It now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for signing. His family says he was tortured by cyberbullies from Alamo Heights High School. (File photo)

After receiving a majority of votes from the Texas House and a unanimous vote in the Texas Senate, Senate Bill 179 is heading to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for signing.

"It's been a great day. We haven't had a lot of opportunity for joy since losing our son but this is really a day to celebrate," said Matt Molak, David's father.

The bill, also known as David's Law, is aimed at combating and preventing cyberbullying. It was named after 16-year-old Alamo Heights High School student took his own life in January 2016 after enduring relentless cyberbullying.

SB 179 would require public schools to establish methods for students to anonymously report cyberbullying. School administrators would have 24 hours to report the bullying to the victim’s parents, followed by a report to the bully’s parents.

The bill also creates a criminal offense, starting with a class B misdemeanor, with up to six months in jail, rising to a class A misdemeanor, with up to one year in jail, for those previously convicted of cyberbullying or if the bullying was done toward a victim under age 18 with the intent to provoke a suicide or self-harm.

Matt Molak David's father says the bill passing the senate is a huge milestone in the push to combat cyberbullying.

"It's a strong message that they want to do something that's going to benefit kids by putting partisanship aside, which has been difficult this session but they were able to come together and do something for the youth of our state," said Matt.

Senator José Menéndez released the following statement:

"Today Senators from both parties, from every walk of life, and from every corner of the state spoke with one voice in unanimous support of David's Law. We owe the passage of Senate Bill 179 to the families who ensured the death of their child would result in a change of bullying policies across the state. They bared their tragedy to the legislature and urged us to act. Today, we did. David's Law will empower schools, parents, and law enforcement to tackle cyberbullying. However, I hope it does more than that. I hope it signals a change in our culture - a reprioritization of our values. The Texas Legislature took a strong stance against bullying. I know the ripple effects will save a child's life."
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