David's Law. End Cyberbullying

{This is a sponsored post}

David’s Legacy Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending cyber and other bullying, of children and teens, through education, legislation, and legal action. With the launch of the David’s Legacy Pledge campaign, one of their goals is to bring awareness and support to David’s Law, a new law that protects Texas children by treating cyberbullying offenses as misdemeanors and establishing new channels of communication to report these criminal acts to law enforcement through their schools

I recently had the opportunity to ask Maurine Molak, David's mother, about David's Legacy Foundation and how other's can get involved with combating cyberbullying.

In what ways do you inspire both children and adults to promote kindness within their community?
I use David's story to encourage young people and adults to always remember that there is a soul behind every screen, a username with feelings, so we should treat them as we would want to be treated, with kindness.

How did you get involved in local legislation to combat bullying?
After my son died, we were contacted by hundreds of parents and students who had been affected by cyberbullying. We were also approached by San Antonio Senator Jose Menendez who was working with another family affected by cyberbullying and he asked us to join his efforts in looking at gaps in current laws so that the state of Texas could better protect students from this pervasive issue. However, from the very beginning we knew legislation was only a small piece to the solution albiet a necessary piece.

What are some ways that students and parents can get involved to combat cyberbullying?
There are three things that I encourage...Be Internet Kind, Be Internet Brave, and Be Internet Well. When I talk about internet kindness, I apologize for the current online judgemental environment and that some adults don’t set a very good example. My hope is that they will see that this behavior should not be acceptable and I encourage them to find a way to make the internet and social media a kinder place to hang out. To be internet brave means that you stand up for others by either calling out the bad behavior, reporting to an adult, or reaching out and letting the person who is the target know that you care about them. And lastly, to be internet well, is where I encourage students to educate themselves on the psychology behind technology and social media. I ask them to be mindful of their habits and how they feel before, during, and after they are on social media and other internet sites. I provide them a little bit of the science of how it is designed to hook you in and keep you there. I don't tell students they should stop using their phones or technology I just encourage them to educate themselves and to be mindful of how they are feeling and to know where to get help if they are ever in crisis.

What steps can a parents take if their child is a victim of cyberbullying?
The first thing to do is to make sure your child is okay and to let them know that you will help them get through it. If your child is not coping with it well then you will want to seek out professional help. The next step is to make sure that you take screen shots and document all events in a timeline. Then you will need to work with your child on how best to address the issue which may mean going to the school and/or reaching out to law enforcement. Most young people are afraid to go to school administrators for fear of making it worse but you should let your child know that doing nothing is not the answer because the person or persons who are doing the cyberbullying could move on to someone else who might not be as strong as your child. It's a tough decision but most often we find that once parents get involved the behavior does stop. When working with your school its important to always follow up with an email documenting your understanding of the meeting and next steps. If you don't feel like your school is addresses it properly you should work your way up the chain of command with the school board president as your last contact. It's important that as you move through the chain of command that you get more like minded parents to join you and that you all stay calm and let your school administration know that you are advocating for positive change and that you want to help make your school better.

Are there warning signs that parents can look for?
Changes in their online/gaming/phone habits, complaints of physical illness (stomach aches), changes in their mood, anger, isolation, loss of interest in the things they used to enjoy, changes in sleeping and eating habits. We all know our child better than anyone and if there is any question that your child is suffering you need to reach out for professional help.

In your own words, can you explain what David’s Law is and why is it important state wide?
David's Law is a comprehensive piece of legislation that addresses the education code, the civil, and criminal codes. We wanted to give educators, parents, and law enforcement more tools to effectively address this issue that has become pervasive in our young peoples lives. The most significant piece in the education code is that it gives public schools the authority to investigate and address cyberbullying that occurs off campus if it disrupts the learning environment. It also provides a timeline for schools to report to parents, work with law enforcement if a crime has been committed, and expel or send a student to Disciplinary Alternative Education School for very serious bullying behavior. The civil code provide parents tools to get injunctive relief requiring the perpetrator to stop the behavior as well as hold the parents accountable for making that happen. David's Law updated the harassment code to include modern ways that kids cyberbullying...before David’s Law it included pagers and fax machines, so we just modified it to include modern technology such as apps and cell phones. It also provided for an enhanced misdemeanor (Class A) for suicide baiting, a repeat offender, or someone who disregards the injunctive relief from the civil side of David's Law. David's law is important to our state because we have over 5 million children in public education and the statistics show that about 35% of students experience cyberbullying. That is one in three students and we know that children who are targets cannot concentrate, they skip school and are at risk of developing depression and anxiety. Our children are our future and as Texans it is our responsibility to make our schools safe learning environments.

San Antonio area Papa John’s restaurants are proud to announce the new Better Neighbors program by partnering with David’s Legacy Foundation to combat cyberbullying. The Better Neighbors program provides an opportunity for Papa John’s restaurant owners and employees to support the neighborhoods that they live and work in. The Better Neighbors commitment will continue through the 2018-2019 school year, from August 30, 2018 - June 6, 2019, with the Better Neighbors deal: Two-large, two-topping pizzas with a two-liter soda purchase, valued at $24. Anytime this deal is ordered online, Papa John’s will donate $2 of every sale to David’s Legacy Foundation.

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