Frank-N-Friend, which runs January 31-February 16, is a heartwarming tale of friendship. But creators Joe Sturgeon and Michael Visconti wanted to write a story that was relatable to today’s youth and focused on the topic of bullying. Giving a run-down of the show, Joe mentions, “A new kid in school, Oliver arrives. [And] he’s not prepared to be tossed into middle school. So, a couple of friends of his offer to show him the ropes. But, nevertheless, he runs into the big bully in school, Butch. After a dodgeball game that goes a bit awry, they have kind of a high noon moment…”
How does Mary Shelley Middle School equate to schools around the nation and in Texas? Unlike Oliver in this fictional musical, students cannot build a perfect friend who will protect them from bullies. And while technology has yielded incredible advancements, it has made it much easier to criticize and bully peers.
Fortunately, Texas has made large strides to improve its anti-bullying legislature, providing clear guidelines for public schools on what should be offered to prevent, report and resolve bullying cases.
Let’s look at how bullying is defined under Texas law:
(a) means a single significant act or a pattern of acts by one or more students directed at another student that exploits an imbalance of power and involves engaging in written or verbal expression, expression through electronic means, or physical conduct that satisfies the applicability requirements provided by Subsection (a-1), and that:
- (I) has the effect or will have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student’s person or of damage to the student’s property;
- (ii) is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student;
- (iii) materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of a classroom or school; or
- (iv) infringes on the rights of the victim at the school; and
(b) includes cyberbullying.
(a) means bullying is done through the use of any electronic communication device, including through the use of the cellular or other type of telephone, a computer, a camera, electronic mail, instant messaging, text messaging, a social media application, an internet website, or any other internet-based tool” (Public Affairs, 2019).
Bullying is an act or series of acts that prey on an imbalance of power (written, verbal or physical) that:
- Effects the victim physically or places them in reasonable fear
- The action is “sufficiently severe” enough that it creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive environment for the victim
- Disrupts the victim’s education or the order of the classroom
- Infringes on the rights of the victim, while at school
- May also include cyberbullying
Texas legislation also calls schools to “prevent and respond” to bullying. “Texas school districts are required to adopt a policy concerning bullying. School district policies must contain key policy and procedural elements.”
- Statements prohibiting bullying and retaliation;
- Procedures regarding actions a student should take to obtain assistance and intervention in response to bullying;
- Procedures notifying parents or guardians of the alleged victim and the alleged bully;
- Statements regarding the available counseling options for a student who is a victim of or a witness to bullying or who engages in bullying;
- Procedures for reporting and investigations;
- Provisions related to disciplining of students with disabilities; and
- Statements regarding how the district policy will be publicized within the district.
“Texas anti-bullying laws and regulations encourage and require districts to implement bullying prevention programs or strategies. School districts are required to include anti-bullying prevention in the district’s health education curriculum. Staff and teachers are also required to have training on how to prevent, identify, respond and report incidents of bullying.”
In Texas, we are fortunate to have people that fight for change in the legislature because of what they or their families have been through. David’s Law passed in 2017 has had a great impact on Texas bullying legislation. David’s Law, “requires school districts to include cyberbullying in their district bullying policies and to notify a child’s parents if he or she is a victim or alleged aggressor or bullying” (Frisco ISD Communications, 2017).
Texas is one of the few states that has a clearly defined bullying legislation. Federal law does not have any specific laws that detail bullying. However, there are instances in legislation where bullying overlaps with laws against harassment – whatever that may be. These reports of harassment may include but aren’t limited to race, nationality, sex, age, disability, religion, etc. Interestingly, where the lines are blurred between harassment and bullying, schools that receive federal funding are required to act (Public Affairs, 2019). We hope that by bringing bullying to the forefront of conversations between educators and students, lawmakers will feel obligated to act to protect students and prevent bullying across America.
For more information on David’s Law and defining bullying in the state of Texas, please see the below documents. For a deeper dive into Texas Legislation and what it means, watch the video below.
*Please note, the material and information contained on this website is for general information purposes only. You should not rely upon the material or information on this website/post as a basis for making any business, legal or other decisions.
Frisco ISD Communications. (2017). David’s Law Information. Retrieved from http://www.friscoisd.org/news/inside/inside-frisco-isd/2017/09/21/david’s-law-information.
Public Affairs. (2019, December 4). Federal Laws. Retrieved from http://www.stopbullying.gov/resources/laws/federal.
Public Affairs. (2019, December 5). Texas Anti-Bullying Laws & Policies. Retrieved from http://www.stopbullying.gov/resources/laws/texas.