Investigations, arrests show how new law protects students against cyberbullying

By Cathy Tatom - Investigative Producer

HOUSTON - Channel 2 Investigates asked local school districts if they had received any complaints about cyberbullying since David’s Law took effect on Sept. 1. We also asked if any of those complaints resulted in law enforcement investigations or arrests.

As reported in the story above, the Katy Independent School District referred two incidents to law enforcement agencies for investigation.

The Dickinson Independent School District referred two cases to the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office. The cases resulted in the arrests of two students.

The Cleveland Independent School District said seven suspected cases of cyberbullying have been reported to the school district. It referred four of the cases to law enforcement agencies for investigation, which resulted in the arrest of a student for invasive visual recording in a school bathroom.

The Clear Creek Independent School District said it has received five reports of cyberbullying since the law took effect, but none were referred to law enforcement agencies.

Houston Independent School District said it has received 133 reports of bullying in its schools since classes began in September. As it stands now, the district’s tracking mechanism does not distinguish between cyberbullying and other types of bullying. As part of its commitment to comply with the new legislation, district spokesman Terry Clemons told KPRC 2 News on Monday that the district is working internally on a new system to better track bullying and cyberbullying.

SB 179, David’s Law

David’s Law protects children against cyberbullying in many ways by requiring public schools to adopt a policy that, among other things:

  • Prohibits the bullying of any student.
  • Prohibits retaliation against victims, witnesses or another person who in good faith provides information about bullying incidents.
  • Requires the notification of the alleged victim’s parent or guardian on or before the third business day after the incident is reported.
  • Requires that the parent or guardian of the alleged bully is notified within a reasonable amount of time after an incident.
  • Establishes the actions a student should take to get assistance and intervention in cases of bullying.
  • Establishes procedures for anonymously reporting bullying.
  • Prohibits disciplinary measures against a student found to be the victim of bullying that used reasonable self-defense in response to the bullying.

What is cyberbullying? (https://www.stopbullying.gov/)

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices, such as cellphones, computers and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through text messaging and apps, or online in social media, forums or games in which people can view, participate in or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting or sharing negative, harmful, false or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else, causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.

The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:

  • Social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
  • Text messages sent through devices.
  • Instant messages via devices, email provider services, apps and social media messaging features).
  • Email.

Frequency of Cyberbullying

  • The 2014–2015 School Crime Supplement from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that, nationwide, about 21 percent of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying.
  • The 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that an estimated 16 percent of high school students were bullied electronically in the 12 months prior to its survey.

Signs your child/teenager may be the victim of cyberbullying

  • Becomes upset, sad or angry during or after using the internet or a cellphone.
  • Withdraws from family or friends.
  • Expresses reluctance or refuses to participate in activities previously enjoyed.
  • Has an unexplained decline in grades.
  • Refuses to go to school or expresses anger or dissatisfaction with a specific class or school in general.
  • Increasingly reports symptoms of illness for which he or she wants to stay at home.
  • Shows signs of depression or sadness.

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