Statewide Anti-Bullying Strategy Set for Expansion
Reduction in school shootings cited as legislation’s objective
BATON ROUGE, La. – Rep. Austin Badon (D – Orleans) wants to clamp down on harassment, intimidation, and bullying of students in Louisiana’s public school districts. His HB 112, proposed to the House on April 25, would strengthen a 2001 law that mandates all Louisiana public schools include a policy in their student code of conduct to prohibit bullying.
The bill would remove exemptions granted to six parishes and broaden the definition of bullying. It goes so far as to include any written, verbal, or physical act directed by a student at another student on school property and motivated by any actual or perceived personal characteristic. Race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, political persuasion, and physical and mental disabilities would be off limits.
Penny Dastugue, president of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, claims it has been difficult to measure the progress of the 2001 legislation because of lack of data, but that is going to change.
“Some, if not all, school districts collect data on office discipline referrals and the reason for the referral, but we do not collect at the state level. ….therefore we have no way of determining the effects of bullying.”
Dastugue continues by saying the BESE will collect data on bullying for the first time this year.
A study conducted by the U.S. Secret Service in the wake of a slew of school shootings concluded that, “bullying played a significant role in many school shootings and that efforts should be made to eliminate bullying behavior.”
A second study followed 432 gifted students from 11 states, and found that two-thirds of academically gifted eighth-graders had been bullied at school and nearby, and nearly one-third harboured violent thoughts as a result.
Additionally, 65 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth report verbal harassment because of their orientation, and, unlike other forms of bullying, harassment of LGBT students increases in higher grades.
Lorrie Sanchez of Utterly Global, an anti-bullying organization, claims the most effective anti-bullying legislation was recently passed in New Jersey. The law is much more specific in it’s definition of bullying, and mandates that schools create a school safety team that addresses bullying, and that staff must be trained in bullying prevention.
This bill and other types of anti-bullying legislation could open the door for an increase in lawsuits against the school board, tasked with enforcing the laws.
Virginia delegate Rob Bell, who helped pass legislation similar to Louisiana’s proposed anti-bullying law, claims it is a stretch to hold teachers responsible for the actions of children at all times.
And Dr. Peter Sheras, a clinical psychologist who has authored a book on bullying, states that bullying is a failure of the community as a whole.
“I think we’re all accountable,” he said. “We’ve created the kind of community in our society that tolerates these things and nobody should tolerate it. To blame one single group misses the point.”