Representatives consider requiring anti-bullying policies
JEFFERSON CITY – Anti-bullying legislation was heard in committee on Monday.
This legislation would require Missouri school districts to adopt a specific anti-bullying policy.
The bill (HB 1583) would require schools to include this policy in the student handbook as well as training and educating school district employees.
In the hearing, bill sponsor Rep. Sue Allen (R-Town and Country) presented the bill to the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.
“This bill says that every school district will have a bullying policy, and it does direct that all staff and anyone connected with a student will know the schools' policies,” Allen said.
The bill defines bullying as well as cyberbullying:
"Bullying" means intimidation or harassment that causes a reasonable student to fear for his or her physical safety or property; substantially interferes with the educational performance, opportunities, or benefits of any student without exception; or substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the school.
"Cyberbullying" means bullying as defined in this subsection through the transmission of a communication including, but not limited to, a message, text, sound, or image by means of an electronic device including, but not limited to, a telephone, wireless telephone, or other wireless communication device, computer, or pager.
Allen read various bullying cases that happened within the last year to explain why the policy should be put in place.
“In Liberty, Missouri, a principal resigned due to a bullying incident where a 12-year-old student with Asperger’s jaw was broken and skull fractured, sending him to the hospital for five days. Parents complained to the school and sent a certified letter to the principal asking him to intervene. The principal talked to the student twice, and no other punishment was handed down. So I think we need this bill,” Allen said.
Representatives were then allowed to ask questions, and none that spoke specifically said they were against the bill.
Scott Kimbel, Legislative Advocacy Director of the Missouri Council of School Administrators, spoke as a witness to bring up the new definition of bullying the Center for Disease Control introduced this year, “Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated; bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.”
There were other witnesses there in support of the bill including, Dr. Sharon Sevier, Interim Director of the Missouri School Counselors Association.
Sevier said, “When a program is fully implemented, research has found that our schools are safer, they’re better learning environments and students become more fully actualized.”
There were no witnesses present to testify against the bill.