Northwest NEWS

March 11, 2002

School

Anti-bullying bill succeeds in Senate

A measure that aims to prevent violence in Washington's schools passed the Senate last week on a strong bipartisan vote.
   "This bill is a small step, but it's a powerful step," said Senate Education Committee Chair Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell. "It will raise awareness among students, parents and teachers, and give schools the tools they need to stop bullying and maintain safe learning environments for our children."
   The measure requires all school districts to adopt or amend anti-bullying policies by Aug. 1, 2003.
   It also orders the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to provide school districts with a model policy and training materials by Aug. 1, 2002.
   The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, at the request of Gov. Gary Locke, Attorney General Christine Gregoire and Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson. The Senate approved a similar measure last year, but the House failed to act on it.
   While each district would have local control over the content of its policy, all policies must include a statement prohibiting harassment, a definition of harassment, and steps for notifying parents, students, and school volunteers and employees of the policy.
   The goal is for school districts to develop their policies in a collaborative effort with students, parents, teachers, administrators and the larger community.
   "Members of the Legislature feel very strongly about protecting kids, and dedicated a lot of time and effort on both sides of the aisle to pass this measure," McAuliffe said.
   The bill (House Bill 1444) the Senate passed cleared the House of Representatives last month and will return to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
   It will then head to the govenor, who is expected to sign it into law.