Eight months after Alamo Heights High School student David Molak took his own life in response to online abuse, his family’s efforts to prevent cyberbullying continue.
David’s Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit that the family founded in the months that followed 16-year-old Molak’s early January death, launched a website and Facebook page this week that the family hopes will become resources for those struggling with cyberbullying.
The website’s launch comes alongside news that the Molak family will provide testimony at a public hearing about bullying for the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice. The hearing will take place Tuesday, Aug. 23 at 1:30 p.m. at the State Capitol building in Austin, Room E1.016. It’s intended as an early step in passing cyberbullying legislation that is sponsored by State Sen. José Menéndez (D-26) and State Rep. Ina Minjarez (D-124): David’s Law.
The two officials hope to propose identical legislation to their respective governing bodies so that the law is more likely to pass during the 2017 legislative session.
The law, which is on its second draft, according to Menéndez’ office, focuses on a number of fixes, including giving schools greater latitude in their efforts to stamp out cyberbullying. Part of that latitude will give school districts more opportunities to work with local law enforcement as well as offering schools, and by extent, students, a system to anonymously report threats. The draft also aims to give additional counseling and rehabilitation services to both victims and their abusers.
Menéndez expects to file the law in the State Senate in November and hopes that it will go to committee by February or March so that it can be passed into law by the end of the 2017 session. Though Menéndez and Minjarez have expressed optimism about getting their legislation through, they also recognize that it must be accompanied with other solutions.
“Passing David’s Law is an important legislative step to address the pervasive problem of harassment and bullying in our schools,” Menéndez stated in a news release. “However, more must be done to create dialogues of compassion in our community to solve this bullying epidemic. David’s Legacy (Foundation) is key to creating these dialogues. I encourage all families to sign up and get involved with David’s Legacy.”
The David’s Legacy website, which includes links to look up local representatives and a sample email to send them about cyberbullying, aims to make getting involved easier than ever. The site also offers information about the Don’t Bully Me Project, an effort by San Antonio attorneys Jimmy Carter and Clayton Smaistrla to provide pro bono legal services and advice to targets of bullying and their families.
The website features a link to donate to the foundation, which, according to a spokesperson, has raised more than $100,000 since the Molaks founded it in January, shortly after their son’s death.
Molak, a sophomore at Alamo Heights High School, had endured repeated bullying via social media apps and text messages for several months during 2015. He was found dead in the family’s backyard on Jan. 4, shortly after being added to a text message thread in which nearly 10 individuals, whose phone numbers he did not recognize, mocked him.
Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood announced in May that no criminal charges would be filed against any of the students involved in bullying Molak. The Molak family expressed disappointment at the time, as well as a determination to pass legislation that would make investigating and punishing cyberbullying easier.
In the meantime, the family hopes to continue their efforts educating students about cyberbullying.
“We believe that addressing this issue will require action and a change of heart from today’s youth and legislation,” stated Molak’s father, Matt, in a news release. “We are challenging parents, schools and law enforcement to take an active role in supervising and monitoring children for signs of involvement as an aggressor, victim or bystander of cyberbullying.”
Donations to David’s Legacy so far have funded visits at local schools by anti-cyberbullying speakers. In late September, David’s Legacy will pay for a visit by author Barbara Coloroso to Alamo Heights High School.
The Molak family also has pledged to set up a scholarship for Alamo Heights High School students in David’s name. The David Molak Kindness Scholarship will award $1,000 to a senior who “exhibits kindness and good character,” according to a spokesperson for the family. The Molaks have committed to providing the scholarship for at least five years.
Top image: State Senator Jose Menéndez expresses his commitment to try to pass a cyber bullying law during the next legislative session. Photo by Rachel Chaney.