Northwest NEWS

February 11, 2002

Features

House passes anti-bullying bill

by Carol Edwards
   What is your experience with bullying? Have you been bullied, witnessed a bullying situation or been a bully?
   You may want to ask your child those same questions. You might be surprised at the answers.
   I personally know of a Woodinville 7-year-old boy who is beaten up regularly at school recess. It seems to the boy, his friends who watch this and his concerned parents that nothing is being done about it.
   "Currently there are no laws specifically addressing harrassment, intimidation and bullying by students in the school setting ... However, certain criminal laws may be applicable on a limited basis." This statement was found in background material from the House Committe on Education on the bills currently being considered in the Washington state legislature.
   House Bill (HB) 1444 and companion Senate Bill (SB) 5528 will require schools to have policies in place prohibiting harrassment, intimidation and bullying on school grounds and at school activities by Aug. 1, 2003.
   The bill passed the House last Wednesday with 81 yeas and 16 nays and 1 absent. It is now on the third reading in the Senate and up for the vote.
   "Every child has the right to feel safe. The goal of this legislation is for school districts to develop policies in a collaborative effort with students, parents, teachers, administrators and the larger community. Each community must be responsible for the safety of their children in our schools" said Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe (D-Bothell). "This legislation will protect all children in our public schools by prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying. In the face of overwhelming evidence showing that bullying contributes to school violence, this bill needs to be placed immediately on the Governor's desk for his signature."
   McAuliffe served on the Bullying and Harassment Policy Development and Training Group to develop the model policy for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. She also was a member of the Northshore School District School Board from 1977 to 1991.
   Rep. Laura Ruderman (D-Kirkland) is also a sponsor and supporter of this bill.
   (The full text of the original bill and the amended bill can read at www.leg.wa.gov under bill information. Type in HB 1444 or SB 5528),
   A search for information on bullying brought up 98,620 results.
   A government database, the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC digests) stated, "Bullying is a serious problem than can dramatically affect the ability of students to progress academically and socially."
   The Center for Study and Prevention of Violence states "The most effective school response to violence are those that develop the social resources of their students."
   "Schools alone can't solve problems with complex societal orgins. Experts agree that comprehensive efforts involving school, community groups and local agencies are much more effective."
   What can we all do to help?