A state legislator who in the last regular session sponsored school bullying legislation has pre-filed that bill for the coming session. Representative Sue Allen’s (R-Town and Country) proposal would expand on current state statute.
It would add discrimination to the definition of “bullying.” In doing that, she wanted to avoid categorizing students who are targeted based on factors such as race, sexual orientation or religion. Allen says it would protect all students. “If you’re a student, you’re in here and you should be protected. That’s the message I really want everybody to get.”
Current statute already requires schools to have an anti-bullying policy in place. Allen’s bill would require a number of components be a part of that. That includes:
A statement prohibiting bullying
A procedure for investigating reports of bullying
A statement prohibiting reprisal or retaliation against a person reporting bullying
A statement of how the policy will be publicized
She would also include in district policies a requirement that students report instances of bullying of which they have first-hand knowledge. Current statute only requires this of district employees. Allen says, “You would hope that a student who sees someone else being bullied would have sense enough, or empathy enough, or something enough in them to report it to help the person being bullied to get the teachers and move forward so they can address it.”
The bill also specifies that a student who has been a victim of bullying and has completed all requirements to report it be informed of his or her options, including civil or legal action. Allen says from what she has heard, school districts are not doing that. “Maybe they didn’t go far enough with any additional authority figure to support the student and the family of the child being bullied. In a lot of instances it has sounded like the schools kind of keep it within their family. They don’t want it to get out.”
Her bill does not lay out how a policy should be enforced. She says the point is to make parents or guardians aware of the situation so that a threat can be identified to law enforcement if necessary. The proposal would not prevent a school from setting penalties, however.
“That might be the same as what a school would say as, for a football player. ‘You gotta maintain your “C” average or you’re off the team,’ or ‘you have so many days to get back on the team.'”
The last action on her bill in the 2011 regular session was a committee hearing.
See the pre-filed 2012 bill on the Missouri House of Representative’s website here.