Frisco ISD parents and educators heard a powerful message this week from a mother who has experienced the tragic consequences of cyberbullying firsthand.
Maurine Molak lost her 16-year-old son David, an Eagle Scout from San Antonio, to suicide in 2016. David had been repeatedly harassed by a group of students via text message and social media. Molak said she struggled to get help for her son, who became overwhelmed with hopelessness.
“Nothing seemed to work,” she said. “I felt like I was in the middle of a tornado where everything was moving very fast, but I was moving in slow motion.”
Now Molak shares David’s story to prevent the same situation from happening to others. She encourages parents to monitor their kids’ phones and social media accounts and limit their use.
“It is just a completely different world than the one we grew up in,” Molak said. “Perhaps you can learn from my mistakes and walk alongside your kids as they navigate technology and social media.”
The family founded David’s Legacy Foundation to raise awareness and successfully advocated for the passage of a new Texas law to combat cyberbullying. Senate Bill 179, formally known as David’s Law, classifies cyberbullying as a misdemeanor offense and gives parents, schools and law enforcement agencies new tools to fight it.
For example, school districts have greater ability to investigate off-campus bullying if they see it materialize in school, enabling educators and law enforcement to collaborate on investigations. The courts may also issue subpoenas to uncover people who are posting anonymously online.
Not only can a child can be charged with a crime for certain forms of cyberbullying or online harassment, but parents of students who cyberbully others may also be held responsible if they could have intervened but didn’t.
School districts also have greater latitude to discipline or expel students for severe bullying behavior, including encouraging a child to commit or attempt suicide. If your child is bullied, you can obtain injunctive relief from the courts to stop and/or prevent cyberbullying of your child.
In Frisco ISD, students are encouraged to intervene or tell an administrator if they know of a student who is in trouble or being mistreated. The STOPIt app is in place for students, parents and community members to anonymously report safety concerns, including bullying, cyberbullying or suicidal ideation.
Molak urges parents to talk to their kids about what they see, post and share online and ways to demonstrate empathy for others in the digital world.
“Encourage courage in your kids,” she told parents. “Teach them to stand up and speak out against cruelty. It’s the right thing to do.”
The parent seminar was hosted by the Frisco ISD Guidance and Counseling Department and made possible through the support of the Frisco ISD Council of PTAs. You can watch a recording of the session on the PTA Council’s Facebook page.