Anti-bullying legislation could affect local school districts

1 year 5 months 4 weeks ago January 25, 2016 Jan 25, 2016 Monday, January 25 2016 Monday, January 25, 2016 8:21:00 AM CST in News
By: Stephanie Sierra, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - New anti-bullying legislation is being heard in committee Monday that could require mid-Missouri school districts to implement new policies.

In 2007, Missouri law made it a requirement for every school district to have an anti-bullying policy. However, Rep. Sue Allen (R-Town and Country) introduced a bill, HB 1583, earlier this month to propose additional anti-bullying policies for school districts to implement.

If passed, the bill would require all school district employees to be trained and educated on youth suicide prevention and awareness. In addition there would be the following changes regarding reporting incidents of bullying:

-A district employee who either witnessed or received a notice of the the bullying must report the incident to the anti-bullying representative within two days of the incident.

-Subsequently, within one day of the report being filed, the school principal or his/her representative should investigate what happened.

-The investigation must be completed within 10 days of the report being filed.

Rep. Allen said the main intent of her bill is to make sure each school district has guidelines to ensure the policies are actually being practiced.

"Every school district handles how they implement anti-bullying policies in a different way," Allen said.

Many mid-Missouri school districts already have extensive anti-bullying policies in place. Columbia School District's current polices include most of the main goals of the bill. CPS has programs to outline student discipline, outreach and prevention programs, in addition to guidance counselors. 

"The elements that are outlined in the proposal for HB 1583 are all things Columbia Public Schools is already addressing," Michelle Baumstark, CPS Communication Director, said.

Allen said one her main concerns include addressing the bullying policy, communicating effectively with all parties involved, working with the bullier, and identifying the behavior.

However, Baumstark said that you have to be careful as a school district identifying the behavior.

"You want to be cautious that you are not turning that individual into a victim of bullying, because that does not serve the purporse or intent of it being a learning experience," Baumstark said.

Despite previous requirements, these new restrictions would affect many surrounding public school districts' current policies: Columbia, Jefferson City, Hallsville, and Wentzville.

The main additions this bill includes involve setting a timeline for how and when bullying incidents are handled, but not how a school implements the policies.

The required training on youth suicide prevention for district employees would include the following procedures: 

1. Strategies that can help identify students who are at possible risk of suicide

2. Strategies and protocols for helping students at possible risk of suicide

3. Protocols for responding to a suicide death

The anti-bullying coordinator for Wentzville public schools was very pleased with this proposed additional training.

"This is excellent training to have, it can save a child's life," Dr. Melody Mark Antonio said.

The hearing will be held on Monday at 5 p.m. in House Hearing Room 3.

 

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