Even during a global pandemic, bullying — in particular, cyberbullying, doesn’t stop. More time spent at home usually means more time spent online — leading to a rise in online bullying, stalking and harassment.
That’s why the ongoing work of the David’s Legacy Foundation, or DLF, remains of critical importance. Created in honor of my son David, who took his life at age 16 after months of intense cyberbullying, DLF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating bullying of children and teens through education, legislation and legal action.
David’s experience brought to light the fact that our school systems were missing tools to effectively handle these issues, and that attempts to solve the problem often result in the victim being punished instead of the perpetrator.
The passage of David’s Law during Texas’ 85th legislative session in 2016 was a step in the right direction to bring awareness and new policies to schools to combat cyberbullying, but there is still more to be done, and our fight against those who hide behind a screen continues. The Don’t Bully Me Project, or DBM, which shares its initials with my son David Bartlett Molak, offers additional protections to bullying victims with pro bono legal services.
The DBM Project bridges the gap between those who are targets of bullying and the civil legal system, helping families to better understand their rights and the resources available to them to help end severe bullying. DBM Project attorneys volunteer their time to assist victims of bullying who have exhausted all attempts to relieve themselves of the abuse with no success.
Recently, local attorney Jimmy Carter took the first known cyberbullying case to a Bexar County District Court, citing David’s Law and seeking injunctive relief to protect a young woman from her accused bully. Thanks to his work, Judge Mary Lou Alvarez granted the issuance of a temporary restraining order against the perpetrator. If the perpetrator, or her parents, violate the order, they could be held in contempt of court and subject to penalties, including fines and/or jail time.
Additionally, DLF began a series of free online community screenings last week of the powerful IndieFlix trilogy of documentaries: “Angst,” “LIKE” and “The Upstanders.” The docuseries begins with exploring anxiety and the impact of social media on our lives. The third film, “The Upstanders,” centers on our family’s story, detailing how resilience and the power of connection can stem the tide of bullying and cyberbullying.
“The Upstanders” will be released internationally on Oct. 1 in honor of anti-bullying month. Each virtual screening is followed by a panel discussion, with additional free resources for families to continue the conversation at DavidsLegacy.org. More information about the community screenings, including how to register, is also available on the David’s Legacy Foundation Facebook page.
Oftentimes, it takes a village to create systemic change, especially when cruelty and hate are so prevalent on social media channels. Rest assured, David’s Legacy Foundation will continue to fight the good fight, protecting those who cannot protect themselves and helping our community realize exhibiting kindness can ultimately be the coolest act we, as humans, have the ability to undertake.
Maurine Molak is the interim executive director, secretary, vice president and education co-chair of David’s Legacy Foundation.