Monday, April 4, 2011

School Bullying Prevention Act

Anti-bullying legislation, spurred by the May 2010 suicide of 11-year-old bullying victim Ty Field, is House Bill 1461. Ty Field committed suicide last spring, the result of bullying said Field’s father, who has since pushed for tougher anti-bullying laws. Ty’s family is in Representative Lee Denney’s district and this is her legislation. The proposed House Bill 1461 amends the School Bullying Prevention Act OS §70-24-100.3.
During the 2009-10 public school year in Oklahoma, there were 15,967 incidents of bullying and 648 of those resulted in physical injury, according to school-reported incident data collected by the state Education Department. I could not find any historical data or source data to use as a comparison.
House Bill 1461 adds violent assault and battery, homicide and suicide to the list of behaviors that can be linked to bullying. It defines harassment, intimidation, bullying and cyber bullying as acts that are reasonably perceived as being motivated by actual or perceived characteristics like race, religion, national origin, ancestry or ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical mental, emotional or learning disability, gender or other personal characteristics. The acts may take place on school or off school grounds and may be intended to physically or emotionally harm a student or damage the property of a student or place a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to the property of a student, substantially interfere with the educational opportunities of a student, insult or demean a student or group of students in a way to cause substantial disruptions or substantial interference with the orderly operation of the school, be so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, hostile, or threatening education environment or substantially disrupt the orderly operation of the school.
It adds video content and pagers to methods of electronic communication. Types of electronic communications will include e-mail, instant messaging, text messages, blogs, online games and Internet websites whether or not the communication originated at the school or with school equipment or during school hours.
The measure removes language that precludes school districts from liability and directs districts to develop procedures for reporting acts of harassment or bullying.
The district must publicize the policy through annual notices, display, the handbook and Internet. Parents must be notified when their child is the victim of bullying or harassment. The policy must contain procedures for reporting acts to law enforcement. Districts also must train employees annually in preventing and identifying bullying and harassment and provide educational programs for parents and students. The district must provide consequences and remedial action for persons who commit acts of harassment of bullying and those who falsely accuse others. The district must have a strategy to refer victims and those accused of bullying to counseling and services.
The State Board of Education also must develop a model policy and training materials and make a list of available programs for prevention of harassment and bullying. The board must maintain a central repository for collection and analysis of information regarding harassment and bullying and report to the Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Governor.
Costs associated with the measure relate to training of school personnel who have significant contact with students in preventing, identifying, responding to and reporting incidents of bullying.  The State Department of Education estimates the need for $185,000 for training staff, supplies, and other miscellaneous materials; a minimum of $2,000 for research-based curriculum; and a minimum of $500 for other training costs. 
This bill is pending co-authorship Representative(s) Pittman and was passed by a vote of 22 to 4.

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