EL PASO, Texas - Texas teachers have a new tool to help fight bullying. The new law known as David’s Law gives them more authority over students.
The educators are taking their fight against bullying off campus and online. In the past, schools only handled bullying on campus. Now they can discipline students for messages they send sitting in their own bedroom.
“If anything occurs outside the school setting, but it interferes with the educational environment of the student during the school day, even though it occurred outside school hours, it can be addressed,” said Manuel Castruita, the director of counseling at El Paso ISD.
The law requires administrators to inform parents of victims and bullies about incidents. And districts must create a policy to reporting bullying and how students can get counseling.
Castruita said before David’s Law, a school would need to gather evidence to prove a student had been bullied. In other words, they would need to build a case.
Now all they need is a single insulting message or slur.
“As students engage in behaviors, whether they're appropriate or not, many times they're not realizing the consequences that can come with that,” Castruita said.
Some parents say they’re in favor of the bill as long as administrators don’t interfere with their parental rights.
“I don't want my child to be bullied when she's at home and have to miss school because they're sending her messages through the internet or social media,” said Hugo Jaramillo, the parent of a middle school student.
One grandmother who raises her grandson said in some cases the school may need to intervene because the parents might be the problem.
“The kids mimic what they see at home,” Sandra Negrette said.
Negrette’s grandson, Orlando Martinez, admits he’s been both the victim and the bully. The bill makes telling a student to hurt or kill themselves a misdemeanor, which he supports.
“There’s some kids out there that are at a breaking point and once somebody says to go kill themselves, that’s what they do,” he said.
The El Paso school district said it has already addressed dozens of bullying cases using the law.