2006 – As required by the Texas Education Code, Section 32.001, the Texas State Board of Education published its Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020. The plan envisages students will have access to digital tools and resources, enabling tailored teaching which prepares them adequately for work in the 21st century. Children will learn how to use ICT to construct knowledge and solve real-world problems, whilst educators will benefit from training programs that demonstrate the efficient use of IT from grades Pre-K-12.
2007 – The state requires (through Section 38.023 of the Education Code, effective June 2007) that Internet Safety resources are developed and made available to school districts and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) fulfils this requirement. information is geared toward students, parents and educators.
2009 – A law was passed requiring each school district to adopt and implement a policy on dating violence. Each policy must address safety planning, enforcement of orders of protection, training for school staff, counseling for students, and awareness education for students and parents.
2012 – The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Technology Applications for grades K-12 was updated for the 2012-2013 school year. From as early as kindergarten, children will learn the safe and responsible use of digital resources, consistently following acceptable usage policies and online safety rules. Students in middle school are expected to ‘practice safe and appropriate online behavior, personal security guidelines, digital identity, digital etiquette, and acceptable use of technology.’ They are also required to learn the negative consequences of cyberbullying and online harassment.
2014 – The department issued a progress report for the Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2010. The report evaluates the progress of the program and charts its next steps in for key areas: (1) teaching and learning, (2) educator preparation and development, (3) leadership, administration and instructional support, and (4) infrastructure.
Children at Risk
Based in Texas, this nonprofit organization’s mission is to improve children’s quality of life through research, public policy analysis, education and advocacy. The organization’s Center to End the Trafficking and Exploitation of Children works to combat sex trafficking in the state, in part by strengthening laws and improving resources for children who have been sexually exploited.
Dallas Children's Advocacy Center
This advocacy center works to improve the lives of abused children in Dallas County. They also aim to provide leadership on child abuse issues at the national level.
Digital Knowledge Center
A state-funded database providing Texas public and non-public schools with online resources to supplement K-12 instruction and online literacy.
Prevent Child Abuse Texas
This nonprofit organization works to prevent child abuse and neglect throughout Texas.
Sponsored by the Texas Education Authority, Project Share provides resources for K-12 teachers across Texas, allowing educators to collaborate and share resources, whilst also showcasing outstanding achievements.
Texas Council on Family Violence
This organization works to promote policies to better serve victims of domestic violence in Texas, provide support to service providers to meet victims’ needs, and prevent domestic violence through education.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
The department provides a secure website for individuals to report suspicions of abuse, neglect and exploitation of children, adults with disabilities or the elderly. The website is only for situations that do not require an emergency response.
Texas Education Authority
The Texas Education Authority oversees all public education in the state, from pre-kindergarten through to high school.
Texas School Safety Center
The Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) at Texas State University serves as a clearinghouse for school safety and security information, including research, training, and technical assistance for K-12 schools and junior colleges throughout the state of Texas. The TxSSC offers the Before You Text online course which places emphasis on preventing sexting by addressing the legal, social, emotional, and career impact of engaging in such behaviors.
Texas Social Media Research Institute
This institute at Tarleton State University aims to provide support, training and research focused on social media in elementary, secondary and higher education, as well as in government, business and nonprofit settings.
Texas State Library and Archives Commissio
The commission’s Learning for all Texans project aims to provide computer access and training opportunities for underserved populations.
Texas Virtual School Network
The Texas Education Agency provides online courses through TxVSN, offering online courses and full-time online schools.
Texas Youth Connection
Designed by and for individuals who are currently or were part of Texas Child Protective Services (or foster care), this group addresses how youth out of the foster care system are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking.
The Attorney General of Texas
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s website offers resources on internet safety for seniors, cyber safety for children and human trafficking.
National Human Trafficking Resource Center: Texas State Report (2015)National Human Trafficking Resource Center
This report compiles 2014 data on human trafficking, including the number of reports made to NHTRC and demographic data on the state's trafficking victims.
Bystander Intervention in Cyberbullying: The Role of Relational Closeness, Visual Anonymity, and Number of Bystanders (2015)N. Brody, A.L. Vangelisti
This paper studies the diffusion of responsibility effect with regard to cyberbullying and bystander intervention.
Longitudinal Association Between Teen Sexting and Sexual Behavior (2014)J.R. Temple, H. Choi
This study examines how sexting fits within the context of adolescent sexual development and supports the idea that sexting may be a viable indicator of teen sexual activity.
Introduction to Human Trafficking: A Guide for Texas Education Professionals (2014)Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force
This report provides contextualizes the issue of human trafficking in Texas and offers training resources for adults who work with children.
Human Trafficking of Domestic Minors (2014)Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
The report covers the extent of human trafficking in Texas states that further education, collaboration and awareness is needed to combat the problem.
Assessing the Threat of Human Trafficking in Texas (2014)Texas Department of Public Safety
The report details the state of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of children in Texas, providing examples and relevant laws.
Brokering New Technologies: The Role of Children in Their Parents' Use of the Internet (2013)T. Correa, J.D. Straubhaar, W. Chen, J. Spence
This study investigated how children influence their parents' technology use.
A Multilevel Examination of Peer Victimization and Bullying Preventions in Schools (2013)S. Jeong, B.H. Lee
This study found that students attending schools in which bullying prevention programs are implemented are more likely to have experienced peer victimization, compared to those attending schools without bullying prevention.
Sexually Oriented Businesses and Human Trafficking: Associations, Challenges, and Approaches (2013)Office of the Attorney General
This report covers the intersection of sexually oriented businesses, human trafficking and public health risks.
Teen Sexting and Its Association With Sexual Behaviors (2012)J.R. Temple, J.A. Paul, P. van den Berg, V.D. Le, A. McElhany, B.W. Temple
This study of seven public high schools in Texas found that teen sexting is prevalent and potentially indicative of teens' sexual behaviors.
Media Literacy in the United States: A Close Look at Texas (2010)A.K. Ward-Barnes
A case study of Texas' robust media literacy program reveals suggests for other states.
Evaluation of the Texas Technology Immersion Pilot: Outcomes for the Third Year, 2006-2007 (2008)K. Shapley, D. Sheehan, C. Maloney, F. Caranikas-Walker
This study evaluates the effects of technology immersion on teachers and students.
This section contains details of the state’s laws as they relate to sexual offenses, children and the use of the Internet in the commission of criminal activity. Where possible, sentence details have been given, including whether an increased custodial penalty is imposed where the victim is a child.
Felonies in Texas are punishable as follows, unless otherwise specified:
- Capital felony: carries the death sentence or life imprisonment without parole. Juveniles are not eligible for either the death penalty or sentences of life without the possibility of parole.
- First degree felony: minimum sentence of five years’ and maximum sentence of 99 years’ imprisonment. A fine of up to $10,000 may also be imposed. An exception to this is in the case of aggravated sexual assault where the victim was under the age of six, or was under the age of fourteen and a weapon was used or threats of serious bodily injury were made. In such cases, a minimum sentence of 25 years’ imprisonment would apply. Second degree felony: minimum sentence of two years’ and maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. A fine of up to $10,000 may also be imposed.
- Third degree felony minimum sentence of two years’ and maximum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment. A fine of up to $10,000 may also be imposed.
- State Jail felony: a minimum term of 180 days’ and a maximum term of two years’ imprisonment in the state jail. A fine of up to $10,000 may also be imposed. If it is found during a trial that the accused used a deadly weapon in the commission of a State Jail felony, or has previously been convicted of any felony, they are to be punished for a third degree felony.
Misdemeanors are punishable as follows, unless otherwise specified:
- Class A misdemeanor: up to one year’s imprisonment in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
- Class B misdemeanor: up to 180 days’ imprisonment in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
- Class C misdemeanor: a fine of up to $500.
Texas also imposes harsher penalties on habitual or repeat offenders.
- All felonies: If a person is on trial for any felony offense (except a state jail felony) and it is shown at the trial that they have been convicted of two previous felonies (with the second conviction occurring after the first became final) then a minimum sentence of 25 years’ imprisonment is imposed. A maximum sentence of 99 years’ or life imprisonment may also be imposed.
- First degree felony: If a person is on trial for a first degree felony and it is shown at trial that they have previously been convicted of a felony (excluding a state jail felony) then a minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment is imposed. A maximum sentence of 99 years’ or life imprisonment may also be imposed.
- Second degree felony: If a person is on trial for a second degree felony and it is shown at trial that they have previously been convicted of a felony (excluding a state jail felony) then on conviction they will be punished as per a first degree felony.
- Third degree felony: If a person is on trial for a third degree felony and it is shown at trial that they have previously been convicted of a felony (excluding a state jail felony) then on conviction they will be punished as per a second degree felony.
State Jail felony: If a person is on trial for a state jail felony and it is shown at trial that they have previously been convicted of two state felonies then on conviction they will be punished as per a third degree felony. This is elevated to a second degree felony if they have been convicted of two previous felonies (with the second conviction occurring after the first became final).
- § 21.451. Staff Development Requirements. Defines bullying as engaging in written or verbal expression, expression through electronic means, or physical conduct that occurs on school property, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, or in a vehicle operated by the district. Bullying (1) 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; or (2) is sufficiently severe, persistent, and pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student. It exploits power imbalances through written or verbal expression or physical conduct, and interferes with a student’s education or operation of a school. The board of trustees of each school district shall adopt a policy and procedures that: (1) prohibit the bullying of a student; (2) prohibit retaliation against any person, including a victim, a witness, or another person, who in good faith provides information concerning an incident of bullying; (3) establish a procedure for providing notice of an incident of bullying to a parent or guardian of the victim and a parent or guardian of the bully within a reasonable amount of time after the incident; (4) establish the actions a student should take to obtain assistance and intervention in response to bullying; (5) set out the available counseling options for a student who is a victim of or a witness to bullying or who engages in bullying; (6) establish procedures for reporting an incident of bullying, investigating a reported incident of bullying, and determining whether the reported incident of bullying occurred; and (7) prohibit the imposition of a disciplinary measure on a student who, after an investigation, is found to be a victim if they used self defense. Staff must be trained in preventing, identifying, responding to, and reporting incidents of bullying. Students who have perpetrated bullying or have been victims of bullying may be transferred, or elect to transfer, to another school. These policies must be included in student and employee handbooks, and be posted on the school district’s website.
- § 37.001. Student Code of Conduct. Outlines the what a student code of conduct must contain, which includes conditions for suspension and expulsion, conditions for transferring a student to a disciplinary alternative education program, the circumstances under which a student may be removed from school property, among other policies.
- SB 1135. Relationship Privacy Act. States that sexting is a misdemeanor for the first offense, and subsequent offenses are also misdemeanors, but with greater penalties. A minor may be sentenced to community supervision with a condition of fulfilling an educational program that is paid for by the defendant’s parents. The educational program instructs minors on the issues associated with sexting. The minor can apply to have the conviction expunged on or after his/her 17th birthday. A defendant is liable to a person depicted in intimate visual material for damages if the defendant discloses the material without consent of the person depicted, the personal depicted had a reasonable expectation that the material would remain private, the disclosure causes harm to the person depicted, and the person depicted is identifiable.
- § 38.023, Education Code. List of Resources Concerning Internet Safety. This section requires the Texas Education Agency to develop and make available to school districts a list of websites and organizations that may assist in teaching educators and students about the potential dangers of posting personal information on the Internet, copyright laws and cyber-plagiarism.
- § 20.04, Penal Code. Aggravated Kidnapping. States, among other things, that a person is guilty of a first degree felony if they abduct another person with the intent to abuse the victim sexually.
- § 21.02, Penal Code. Continuous Sexual Abuse of Young Child or Children. This section states that anyone over the age of seventeen or older who commits two or more acts of sexual abuse against one or more victims below the age of fourteen within a period of 30 or more days is guilty of this offense. This is deemed to be a felony of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment for life, or for any term between 25 to 99 years. It is a valid defense to a charge under this section that the offender: was not more than five years older than the victim(s) or that the offender did not use force or threat. ‘Acts of sexual abuse’ include, but are not limited to, kidnapping with intent to sexually abuse the victim (Sec. 20.04), indecency with a child (Sec. 21.11), sexual assault (Sec. 22.011), aggravated sexual assault (Sec. 22.021) and sexual performance by a child (Sec. 43.25).
- § 21.07, Penal Code. Public Lewdness. Defines the offense of engaging in sexual intercourse or sexual conduct in a public place where offense may be caused to another and deems it to be a Class A misdemeanor.
- § 21.08, Penal Code. Indecent Exposure. States that it is a crime for any person to expose their anus or any part of their genitals with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, with a reckless disregard for whether it may cause offense to another. This offense is classified as a Class B misdemeanor.
- § 21.11, Penal Code. Indecency with a Child. This section states that it is a criminal offense for anyone to engage in sexual contact with a child under the age of seventeen. This is deemed to be a second degree felony. This section also encompasses the situation where a person exposes their anus or genitals with the knowledge that a child is present, or causes the child to expose his/her genitals, and deems it to be a third degree felony. In both cases it is an affirmative defense that the offender was less than three years older than the victim and that no force or threat was used in the commission of the acts. ‘Sexual contact’ in this section includes any touching, including through clothing, of the breast, genitals or anus of a child.
- § 21.15, Penal Code. Improper Photography or Visual Recording. States that a person commits a crime when they photograph or by other electronic means record, broadcast, or transmit a visual image of another person without their consent and with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person. This is deemed to be a state jail felony and if the commission of the offense also breaches another law, this section allows them to be prosecuted for that crime in addition to this section.
- § 21.16, Penal Code. Voyeurism. This section defines voyeurism as observing another person without his/her consent, when he/she has a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the actor. This offense is normally considered a Class C misdemeanor, but is a Class B misdemeanor if the actor has previously been convicted two or more times of an offense under the same section. Voyeurism is a state jail felony if the victim was less than 14 years old at the time of the offense.
- § 21.16, Penal Code. Unlawful Disclosure or Promotion of Intimate Visual Material. Under this section, a person commits an offense if: (1) They intentionally disclose visual material depicting another person’s with intimate areas exposed or engaged in sexual conduct, without the consent of the depicted person; (2) The material was obtained or created under circumstances in which the depicted person had a reasonable expectation of privacy; (3) The disclosure of the visual material causes harm to the depicted person; and (4) the disclosure of the visual material reveals the identity of the depicted person in any manner. Any such offense is a Class A misdemeanor.
- § 22.011, Penal Code. Sexual Assault. States, among other things, that it is unlawful for a person to cause the penetration of the anus, sexual organ, or mouth of a child under the age of seventeen by any means, or to cause the child’s sexual organ to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus or sexual organ of another person. This is a second degree felony. It is an affirmative defense that the offender was less than three years older than the victim, provided that the child was over the age of fourteen.
- § 22.021, Penal Code. Aggravated Sexual Assault. This section states that where sexual penetration occurs with a child under fourteen, involving threats, kidnapping or the use of force, then a first degree felony is committed. Where the child is under six, the minimum term of imprisonment increases to 25 years; the same applies if the victim is younger than fourteen years and the offender causes serious bodily injury; places the victim in fear of death, kidnapping or serious injury; uses a deadly weapon; acts jointly with another person; or administers a drug with intent to facilitate the commission of the offense.
- § 25.04, Penal Code. Enticing a Child. Defines the offense of interfering with the legal custody of a child under the age of eighteen. This includes enticing, persuading or taking a child from the custody of a parent or a guardian. This is a Class B misdemeanor, unless the offender intends to commit a felony against the child in which case it is a third degree felony.
- § 33.021, Penal Code. Online Solicitation of a Minor. This section states that it is a crime for any adult to communicate in a sexually explicit manner with a minor under the age of seventeen, or to distribute sexually explicit material to a minor over the Internet by electronic mail or by text message. This is a third degree felony unless the minor was under the age of fourteen at the time of the offense, in which case it is a felony in the second degree. The section also states that it is an offense to solicit a minor over the Internet, by email or text message, to meet another person (including the offender) with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse. This is deemed to be a felony of the second degree. It is a defense to a charge under this section that the offender was no more than three years older than the minor and that the minor consented to the conduct. It is not an acceptable defense that the meeting did not occur.
- § 33.07, Penal Code. Online Harassment. Defines the offense of using another person’s name or persona to post messages on a social networking site or create a website without the other person’s consent and with the intent to defraud, intimidate, threaten or harm any person. This is deemed to be a third degree felony. The section also states that anyone who sends any email, instant message, text message or similar communication that contains a name, domain address, phone number, or other item of identifying character belonging to any person without consent and with the intent to cause the recipient to believe that the other person authorized or transmitted the communication, in order to harm or defraud any person, is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. It is a valid defense to a charge under this section that the offender acted as an employee of a social networking site, an Internet service provider, an interactive computer service, a telecommunications provider, or a cable service provider.
- § 42.07, Penal Code. Harassment. States, among other things, that where a person initiates communication with another person with the intent to annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass the other person, they commit an offense. The offense also encompasses threatening by the means mentioned above to inflict bodily injury or to commit a felony against the receiver, a member of his family or household, or his/her property. Harassment is a Class B misdemeanor unless the offender has a previous conviction, in which case it is a Class A misdemeanor.
- § 42.072, Penal Code. Stalking. Defines the offense of following another person or acting in a manner which causes the other person to fear bodily injury or death, causing a reasonable person to fear such consequences, on more than one occasion and pursuant to the same scheme. This is defined as a third degree felony for a first offense and a second degree felony for subsequent offenses.
- § 43.05, Penal Code. Compelling Prostitution. States that a person is guilty of this second degree felony if they cause a child under the age of eighteen to commit prostitution. If a person commits an offense under this section and another section of this code, the actor may be prosecuted under either or both sections.
- § 43.22, Penal Code. Obscene Display or Distribution. Defines the offense as knowingly displaying or distributing an obscene photograph, drawing or visual depiction or other obscene material, and being reckless about who may see it and whether it would cause offense. This offense is deemed to be a Class C misdemeanor.
- § 43.23, Penal Code. Obscenity. A person commits an offense if they intentionally or knowingly display or distribute obscene material. Possession of six or more identical articles is deemed to show intent to distribute. Knowingly possessing or distributing obscene matter is a felony of the second degree if minors under the age of eighteen are depicted, or appear to be depicted; otherwise it is deemed to be a state jail felony. If the offender knowingly promotes or possesses with intent to promote obscene matter, or if they participate in, produce or direct an obscene performance which involves a minor under the age of eighteen, the offense is upgraded from a Class A misdemeanor to a state jail felony. The higher classification also applies where an identifying feature is captured in the image, such as the face or a birthmark. This applies regardless of whether the minor is actually identified.
- § 43.24, Penal Code. Sale, Distribution, or Display of Harmful Material to Minors. Constitutes that it is unlawful to sell, distribute, or display content that is deemed harmful to minors under the age of eighteen. This is a Class A misdemeanor. It is also a crime to use, hire, or employ any minor in accomplishing any of these acts and is punished as a third degree felony.
- § 43.25, Penal Code. Sexual Performance by a Child. This section states that it is a crime for anyone to employ, authorize, or induce a child younger than eighteen years of age to engage in sexual conduct or a sexual performance. This is a second degree felony unless the child is under fourteen in which case it is a first degree felony offense. Where the offender produces or directs such a performance it is a third degree felony, except where the child is under fourteen in which case it increased to a second degree crime. It is an affirmative defense that the offender is not more than two years older than the child.
- § 43.26, Penal Code. Possession or Promotion of Child Pornography. States that it is against the law for a person to knowingly or intentionally possess visual material that depicts a child younger than eighteen engaging in sexual conduct. This is a felony in the third degree, with the following exceptions: (1) It is a second degree felony if it is shown upon trial that the person has been previously convicted one time of an offense under the same subsection; (2) It is a first degree felony if the person has been previously convicted two or more time of an offense under the same subsection. Where a person possesses more than six images it is deemed to show intent to promote the material, which is a second degree felony. The court may also order a defendant convicted of an offense to make restitution to a victim for expenses incurred as a result of the offense.
- § 43.27, Penal Code. Duty to Report. This section places a legal obligation on businesses that develop or process visual material to report any material that may be a violation of section 43 of the Penal Code to a local law enforcement agency.