Online Bullying of Students Draws Legislative Attention

Spurred by testimony that anonymous, untraceable bullying messages and related harassment of students have caused great harm, even student suicide, the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee on August 23 served notice that new legislation against school-related cyberbullying is in the offing. Sen. Jose Menendez, a San Antonio Democrat who serves on the committee, said he would propose legislation authorizing subpoenas to unmask anonymous perpetrators of online bullying of students, to authorize disciplinary alternative educational placement or expulsion for perpetrators, and to make it a misdemeanor to engage in online bullying of a child under 18. Menendez stressed that the legislation would address the need for counseling and other services for both victims and offenders, noting that offenders themselves often have been targeted previously. The legislation, still being developed, also would call for school administrators to report apparent instances of criminal cyberbullying to local law-enforcement authorities.