Monday, November 8, 2010

Guillen Files First Anti-Bullying Legislation of the Session.

Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Starr, Duval, Zapata, and southern Webb counties) has filed the first anti-bullying legislation of the session.

HB 24 would allow schools to place students who engage in electronic harassment in alternative school if the communication was sent from school grounds or the communication was received on equipment that is school property.

The bill includes as electronic harassment making obscene proposals; threatening to harm the recipient of the communication, their family or their property; and repeatedly contacting the recipient when they do not wish to be contacted.

It's a step in the right direction, but is very narrow in its scope. The kind of electronic harassment it covers is already illegal (Class B misdemeanor), but as I previously wrote such crimes are rarely prosecuted, so giving school administrators another way to deal with the issue is a good idea.

More concerning is that the bill limits the type of harassment it covers to on-campus activity or communication received on school property. It's very hard to tell exactly where someone was when they made a Facebook post - or posted to their Tumblr - so how are administrators going to prove that the communication was sent from school grounds? (maybe we are supposed to hope that foursquare will develop an app for that).

Rep. Guillen has probably tried to make this so narrow in scope to avoid some of the opposition that Rep. Strama faced to his anti-bullying legislation last session, most vocally from the ACLU of Texas who were concerned that allowing school administrators to address off-campus bullying would violate the free speech of the bullies.

I worry that in trying to so narrowly focus the legislation he has created a useless tool, but I applaud his efforts and sincerely hope that some version of this legislation will pass this session.

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