Is Cyberbullying a Crime in Texas?

tl;dr: Cyberbullying can be a crime in Texas and can be filed as a harassment charge. Texas also passed David’s law that created requirements for schools to report bullying – even a single instance – to parents. Bullying among school children has long been an issue for educators and parents. However, the problem has only worsened with the emergence of the Internet, social media, and smartphones. Cyberbullying occurs when someone uses an electronic device to intentionally engage in communication to harass, annoy, alarm, torment, or embarrass another. The abuse could occur through published posts on the Internet, including social media, that are reasonably likely to cause emotional distress. Our Fort Worth cyberbullying lawyer explains Texas laws on cyberbullying, how school districts handle cyberbullying, and the punishment for a conviction.

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What is Cyberbullying in Texas?

Cyberbullying is covered in the Texas Penal Code under harassment. Section 42.07 details what Texas considers cyberbullying. According to the law, a person engages in cyberbullying if they:

  • Send repeated electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass or offend another; or
  • Publish on an Internet website, including a social media platform, repeated electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to cause emotional distress, abuse, or torment to another person unless the communications are made in connection with a matter of public concern.

Other forms of harassment that could fall under the umbrella of cyberbullying include intentionally communicating an obscene proposal, or threat, conveying a false report, making a call, or sending a message designed to harass, annoy, alarm, embarrass, or torment.

What is David’s Law in Texas?

In 2016, Texas lawmakers signed Senate Bill 179, known as David’s Law. David’s law amended the Texas Education Code to make cyberbullying a criminal offense. It’s named after David Molak, a 16-year-old San Antonio boy who committed suicide after relentless cyberbullying.

Where and when does David’s Law apply in Texas?

David’s law includes cyberbullying occurring off-campus and outside of school-sponsored or related activities if it interferes with a student’s education or disrupts the orderly operation of a

Fort Worth Cyberbullying Lawyer | Criminal Defense classroom or school-related activity. Cyberbullying is also a charge that can be filed against a juvenile, often as a harassment charge. If that happens be sure to call our expert juvenile defense attorney, Lisa Herrick. It also covers bullying on school property, during school-related activity, or in a school-related vehicle such as a bus. An adept Fort Worth cyberbullying lawyer will explain the ramifications of the charge and devise an appropriate defense strategy.

What are a Texas school’s responsibilities in a cyberbullying case?

Texas schools are required to employ a way for students to report bullying anonymously. School officials must also report the incident to the alleged victim’s parents within three business days and to the alleged bully’s parents within a reasonable time. The school, however, isn’t required to report the incident to the police.

bullying in schools

Are Texas schools required to report cyberbullying to the police?

No, under David’s Law, school officials have no legal obligation to report suspected bullying or cyberbullying to law enforcement. If school administrators do, in fact, report allegations of cyberbullying to the police, contact our Fort Worth cyberbullying lawyer as soon as possible.

What is the punishment for cyberbullying in Texas?

As of September 1, 2017, cyberbullying is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas.

Fort Worth Cyberbullying Lawyer | Criminal Defense

Cyberbullying is a Class A misdemeanor if the offender was previously convicted of cyberbullying or if the bullied victim was under 18 and the bullying was done with the intent to force the minor to commit suicide or self-inflict serious injury to themselves. Any student charged with cyberbullying can face school sanctions such as expulsion or alternative schooling. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum of 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. The severity of the punishment necessitates consulting with a top Fort Worth cyberbullying lawyer as soon as possible.

How does the Texas Education Code define cyberbullying?

The Texas Education Code defines cyberbullying as bullying “through the use of any electronic communication device,” including through the use of a telephone, smartphone, computer, camera, electronic mail, instant messaging, text messaging, social media platforms, an Internet website, or any other Internet-based communication tool. Pro tip: Remember, the Texas Education Code doesn’t make cyberbullying a crime. It only gives school officials increased abilities to deal with the issue.

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What does Fort Worth ISD say about cyberbullying?

The Fort Worth ISD Code of Conduct prohibits students from sending or posting electronic messages that are abusive, obscene, sexually oriented, threatening, harassing, damaging to another’s reputation, or illegal. These prohibitions also apply when students are off school property if it causes a “substantial disruption to the educational environment.” If you have been accused of cyberbullying, consult with a Fort Worth cyberbullying lawyer to protect your rights. The district defines harassment of a student as any “physical, verbal or nonverbal conduct based on the student’s race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, disability or any other basis prohibited by law that is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that the conduct:

  • Affects a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from a school-related activity or creates an intimidating, threatening, hostile, or offensive educational environment;
  • Has the purpose or effect of substantially or unreasonably interfering with the student’s academic performance; or Otherwise adversely affects the student’s educational opportunities.

Additionally, any person taking, disseminating, transferring, or sharing obscene, sexually-oriented, lewd, or otherwise illegal images is subject to discipline per the Student Code of Conduct. In certain circumstances, the incident could be reported to law enforcement. Again, if school officials inform the police, contact a Fort Worth cyberbullying lawyer promptly.

Have you or a family member been accused of cyberbullying? Call us.

Cyberbullying is a serious offense, and Texas lawmakers have acted in recent years to reflect how seriously they view the problem. If you or a family is being investigated or has been accused of cyberbullying, contact a top Fort Worth cyberbullying lawyer immediately. The team at Varghese Summersett has decades of experience defending harassment-related offenses. We will fiercely protect your legal rights and work to resolve the matter with the best possible outcome. For a complimentary consultation, call us at 817-203-2220

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