SAN ANTONIO – Just weeks before David Molak took his life, state Sen. Jose Menendez was talking about needed legislation with another family whose son was being targeted by a cyberbully.
“I want people to know this is not a knee-jerk political reaction,” Menendez said.
Menendez said he’s now even more determined to see adopted a proposed bill he’s named “David’s Law” to honor the memory of the Alamo Heights High School student, “So that the tragedy to befall the Molak family doesn’t happen to another family.”
But Menendez said he’s chosen not to approach the Molaks in the midst of their grief.
“They need their space and their time. They know where I am and I’m here to help,” Menendez said.
The state senator said a community workshop Thursday is meant to help create David’s Law with input from parents, educators, administrators, law enforcement officials and prosecutors.
The cyberbullying workshop from 7-8 p.m. will be at the SAISD Burnet Center at 406 Barrera.
Menendez said he also wants to see the tech industry involved.
“I think we need to have technology leaders come to the table and say, 'What is it you can do help empower parents?” Menendez said.
He said the family he’d been working with prior to Molak’s death will share their experience at the workshop.
Menendez said, “Our statewide bullying and harassment policies need to be overhauled and updated.”
For example, under current law, bullying is defined as only occurring on school property, yet it can happen anywhere with the use of cellphones.
He also said the legal system needs more latitude in prosecuting bullies because it’s considered free speech.
“Unless there’s an explicit threat, they can’t go after the identity of the person,” Menendez said.
In the Molak case, District Attorney Nico LaHood said a possible charge would be harassment, a Class B misdemeanor.
Menendez said perhaps part of the effort should be to look at why bullies do what they do.
“Perhaps it’s a cry for help,” he said.
His opponent in the District 26 race, state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, said, “We’re looking at the behavior itself. How do we stop that?”
Fischer said with crimes on the Internet, or cybercrimes, “You have to make sure you are passing laws that will actually be effective in court and they will lead to convictions.”
He said this type of legislation should have an education component, as well as adequate funding.