Skip to main content

I want to protect a child from cyberbullying.

Bullying

Ask the court to stop a cyberbully.
Overview

Guide Overview

Under Texas law, you can ask the court to stop one young person from cyberbullying another by filing a Sworn Application and Petition to Stop Cyberbullying.

If you persuade the court that cyberbullying occurred, the judge can order the following:

  • The alleged cyberbully must stop the bullying behavior.
  • The alleged cyberbully’s parent(s) or guardian(s) must take reasonable actions to stop the cyberbullying.
  • The parties must save electronic communications and preserve electronic devices.

“Cyberbullying” is a single significant act or a pattern of acts by one or more students against another student that is done through technology (like email, instant message, text message, or social media).

For a court to find that cyberbullying has occurred, the action(s) must:

  • physically harm the student or the student’s property;
  • make the student fear harm;
  • create an intimidating, threatening, or abusive learning environment for the student;
  • substantially disrupt the learning process, classroom, school; or
  • harm the student’s rights at school.

Before you file a lawsuit, consider whether the cyberbullying can be resolved outside the courtroom by, for example, working with your child’s school. In many cases, school officials can take action.

Special thanks to the San Antonio Legal Services Association for its contributions to this guide.

Research Tips

To learn more, visit the websites listed below.

To read the law about cyberbullying:      

If you have more questions about the law, use TexasLawHelp's I need to do legal research guide. For an overview of the civil court process, start with Civil Litigation: The Basics.

Common questions about Bullying

“Cyberbullying” is a single significant act or a pattern of acts by one or more students against another student that is done through technology (like email, instant message, text message, or social media). To be considered cyberbullying, the action(s) must:

  • physically harm the student or the student’s property;
  • make the student fear harm;
  • create an intimidating, threatening, or abusive learning environment for the student;
  • substantially disrupt the learning process, classroom, or school; or
  • harm the student’s rights at school.

Under Texas law, to show cyberbullying, you must show the court that there is an “imbalance of power.”

An example of an imbalance of power might be an older kid bullying a younger kid.

An imbalance of power could exist because of differences in age, sex, gender, religion, nationality, race, sexual orientation, popularity, physical strength, social media following, social status, income or wealth, or other differences between the parties involved. 

The judge may give you a temporary order that protects you until the court hearing on the injunction itself. 

This order is called a “Temporary Restraining Order."

The injunction must specify what happens if someone violates an anti-cyberbullying order. 

If someone violates the terms of an injunction, they can be held in contempt of court. "Contempt" is the legal penalty for violating a court order, and can result in fines or even jail time.

Also, cyberbullying behavior may violate Texas's criminal harassment statute, Texas Penal Code 42.07.

In Texas, it is a misdemeanor if, with intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass another, someone: sends repeated electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another; or publishes on an Internet website, including a social media platform, repeated electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to cause emotional distress, abuse, or torment to another person (unless the communications are made in connection with a matter of public concern).

You can request support through the San Antonio Legal Services Association's partner David’s Legacy Foundation. Qualifying families are referred for placement with a pro bono attorney either through SALSA or one of its partner organizations (Houston Volunteer Lawyers, Dallas Volunteer Assistance Program, Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, and Lone Star Legal Aid).

Or, use TexasLawHelp's Legal Help Directory to find a lawyer who serves your area. You can also seek help from the Don’t Bully Me Project or call the State Bar of Texas Lawyer Referral Service at 800-252-9690.

You can fill out the application for anti-bullying orders yourself, but you are encouraged to get a lawyer to help you. This guide is not a substitute for legal advice.

For information on free and low-cost legal services, visit txcourts.gov/programs-services/legal-aid or call the legal aid office that serves your area. You can find out which legal aid organization serves your area by using the TexasLawHelp directory.

Contact information is shown in the map below. You can also apply for legal help from the Don’t Bully Me Project by visiting davidslegacy.org/programs/legal-action/ or you can call the State Bar of Texas Lawyer Referral Service at 800-252-9690.

Tell the court clerk as soon as possible that you need an interpreter. Ask the clerk for free interpretation services.

Tell the court clerk as soon as possible that you will need an interpreter or other accommodation.

Instructions & Forms

Follow these steps to prepare a Sworn Application and Petition to Stop Cyberbullying, file the application, and go to court.

Checklist Steps

Read Gathering and Presenting Evidence. Use an incident log or journal to keep track of what has happened. Save records of text messages, emails, social media posts, and other evidence about the alleged cyberbullying.

Make a note of what technology was used to cyberbully, for example: 

□ Phone call
□ Camera
□ Email
□ Instant message 
□ Text message
□ Social media
□ Website
□ Blog
□ Other

You will need to document:

  • When the cyberbullying happened,
  • Who did it, 
  • Who saw it, and
  • What happened.

As with any legal proceeding, it is a good idea to try to resolve the matter before going to court. That concept is also called "exhausting your remedies."

David's Legacy Foundation suggests sending the alleged cyberbully's parents or guardians a cease-and-desist letter first. If you send a letter, save a copy of it, along with proof that you sent it, such as a certified mail receipt and proof of delivery. David's Legacy has a sample cease-and-desist letter in the "Legal Forms and Instructions" section of its webpage about David's Law

Also, Texas schools are supposed to help. Before you file the Application, consider whether the cyberbullying can be resolved outside the courtroom by, for example, working with your child’s school. In many cases, school officials can take action. Save all records of your efforts and the school's efforts to resolve the matter.

Fill out your Sworn Application and Petition to Stop Cyberbullying Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 129A.

  • The "Applicant" must be the parent or guardian of a student who is younger than 18 and who is being cyberbullied.
  • The "Respondent" means the person or people you are suing. 

    If the bully is younger than 18, the bully’s parent(s) or guardian(s) are the Respondent(s). 


    If the bully is 18 or older, then the bully is the Respondent.

The Application is your chance to tell the judge the victim's story. 

You do not have to sign the Application in front of a notary, but you are signing it as an unsworn declaration "under penalty of perjury," which has the same legal effect as if you were signing it in front of a notary. That is, you are swearing under oath that the information in the petition is true. There are criminal penalties for lying under oath (an offense known as perjury). 

After you are done filling in your Application, make a copy of your Application. Store the original in a safe place. Keep it for at least six months after the lawsuit is over. It is also a good idea to keep your evidence with the copy of the Application.

Redact the children's names and home addresses from the copy of the application that you will file.

“Redact” means to remove information. Most people redact by drawing a black box over the information they want to remove.

Redact all children’s names in Sections 1.5, 2.2, 4.3, 4.4, and 4.5 of the Sworn Application. If you listed the Respondent’s home address in Section 2.4, redact it too.

Do not redact your address.

Note: If you are wondering what "sensitive information" might be, read Sensitive Data.

File your application (the redacted copy) and supporting documents with the court.

A court can only hear a lawsuit if the court has the power (called “jurisdiction”) to do so and if the court is in the right place (called “venue”). The right court for a cyberbullying injunction case will generally be a district court or a county court at law. Check out Step 2 in “I want to learn about civil litigation” for guidance about the right court. Talk to a lawyer if you are not sure. You can use TexasLawHelp’s Ask a Question tool to talk to a lawyer or law student.

If you are unable to afford court costs (sometimes more than $350), you should fill out the “Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs. If you can afford court costs, you do not complete and file that form.

Ask the court clerk when you can present your Application to a judge. Often, you can present your Application right away. You should also ask the clerk if there are any local rules you should know about. If you are not at the courthouse, you can call the clerk for this information. The clerk or court coordinator should be able to tell you whether you will go to court in person or virtually. Remember that court clerks cannot give you legal advice.

Present your Application to the judge at what’s called a “hearing.”Read Tips for the Courtroom to learn more about how to get ready for the hearing. If the hearing is virtual (for example, by Zoom), check out TexasLawHelp's virtual court section.

Show the judge the paperwork you turned in and answer any questions the judge has. You may also present evidence, like screenshots of the cyberbullying, and ask questions of witnesses at the hearing.

At the hearing, the judge will decide whether you get a “Temporary Restraining Order,” which is an emergency court order that orders the cyberbullying to stop immediately until the judge can have a hearing with both you and the Respondent.

If the judge doesn’t give you a Temporary Restraining Order, the judge will still schedule a hearing with both you and the Respondent. The David's Legacy Foundation has a temporary restraining order template in the "David's Law" section of its website.

If the judge gives you a Temporary Restraining Order, the judge may order you to pay a “bond.” Immediately ask the clerk how to do that. If the judge doesn’t give you a Temporary Restraining Order, you can skip this step. 

No matter what the judge decides about giving you a Temporary Restraining Order, immediately ask the clerk for help arranging “service” of your Application and, if the judge gives you one, the Temporary Restraining Order.

“Service” is when a constable, sheriff, private process server, or the clerk—not you—officially gives the Respondent a copy of your Application and if the court gave you one, the Temporary Restraining Order. There is usually a fee for this service, but, if you turned in a Statement of Inability to Afford Court Costs, the clerk can arrange this service for free.

Attend your hearing with the judge and the Respondent. You must attend the hearing even if you get a Temporary Restraining Order.

It should be in about two weeks after you first talk to the judge, but the court clerk will be able to tell you the exact time and date.

At the hearing, the judge will decide if you get an “injunction” and for how long. An “injunction” is a court order that orders the cyberbullying to stop for whatever time period the judge decides is appropriate.

At the hearing, the judge will let you explain what has happened and why you believe it is cyberbullying. The judge or the Respondent may ask you questions. Tell the truth and give complete answers. Bring any evidence you have, like screenshots of the cyberbullying, to the hearing. You may also bring witnesses.

If you do not attend the hearing, you will have to restart from the beginning and file a new Application.

If the judge gives you an Injunction, the judge may order you to pay a “bond.” Immediately ask the clerk how to do that. If the judge doesn’t give you an Injunction, you can skip this step.

You may need to draft an injunction for the judge to sign. If you do not have a lawyer, consider hiring one just to draw up the injunction for you. You can ask lawyers if they provide limited scope representation. If you need to draft the orders yourself, read How to Draft Your Own Court Documents first. Ask the clerk or court coordinator how to get a copy of the injunction to the judge for signing. 

The David's Legacy Foundation has a temporary injunction template in the "David's Law" section of its website.

Image removed.

Forms Required

Related Articles