Missouri educators to get lesson on complying with new bullying mandates
JEFFERSON CITY - School staff members from across Missouri will be students on Thursday, taking part in a seminar on how to better protect students from bullying.
The Missouri Association of School Administrators is hosting the learning session as part of its Focus On Professional Development Series. The seminar aims to give school staff the tools and tips to respond to bullying in compliance with House Bill 1583, which outlines new anti-bullying mandates.
Doug Hayter, the organization's associate executive director for leader development, said lawyers who specialize in childhood bullying and discrimination will teach attendees about the bill.
Hayter said the Missouri Association of School Administrators has about 800 members from around the state. Superintendents, central office administrators, building level leaders, teachers and more will attend the seminar.
"It's our way of educating our membership and helping them in regard to student safety and running their school districts in the most effective manner," he said.
Hayter said the presenters will use case studies to examine how to react to bullying, cyberbullying, harassment and assault among students. They will explain everything as it relates to the legal obligations now required of Missouri schools. For example, the law specifies how soon school districts must respond to an incident.
"If specific individuals witness bullying or discrimination or something related, they have a certain number of days, like within two days, that it has to be reported," Hayter said. "It also gives more specific guidelines regarding the completion of the investigation, so it just adds more specificity to dealing with those situations."
In addition to the new guidelines, each school district's anti-bullying policy now needs to be in the student handbook, and districts must annually inform students of the policy. Some districts, including Columbia Public Schools, already meet this requirement.
Darlene Grant, an assistant principal at Rock Bridge High School, said these new guidelines are only going to help the students.
"It's very important that students feel comfortable and that they feel like they can be a part of this environment."
The new law also defines cyberbullying, an issue Grant said she's aware of.
"Today a lot of the information we receive about bullying involves social media, so of course we have to do investigation, and it usually includes some form of looking at what occurred on social media, what was written, what pictures were shared, etc, as a way of gathering as much information as we can to help us make decisions on how to handle the situation," Grant said.
Gov. Nixon signed the bill into law on June 3, and it became effective August 28.