Brad Tregnago of KSSZ contributed to this story
A new Missouri law requires school districts to report additional cases of bullying and harassment to law enforcement. Columbia Public School’s bullying policy has been changed to follow the law, which could lead to tougher punishments for those accused of bullying and harassment.
Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Peter Stiepleman says issues that must be reported, especially involving harassment, are too broad.
“Meaning that if I make you unhappy, uneasy, or sad, I could be charged with a felony, because it now has moved it from a misdemeanor to a Safe Schools violation,” says Stiepleman. “I live with two middle school kids. They are engaging in this all of the time. The obligation under Safe Schools, is that I need to tell law enforcement that this happened.”
Claims could lead to felony charges, no matter what age the kids are. Stiepleman wants state legislators to clearly define what harassment must be reported.
He says the law will put an added strain on law enforcement.
“They are already overburdened with the kinds of calls that they are getting,” says Stiepleman. “To now have to send them regularly these referrals saying we have another case of something that could be harassment under the new statute, do you want to do something about it?”
Some legislators say the concerns are excessive.