Monday, November 15, 2010

SB 205 - Require Schools to Create Anti-Bullying Policies

SB 205 by Sen. John Whitmire would require all public schools in Texas to adopt a comprehensive anti-bullying policy. The bill is exhaustive in the detail it prescribes for the policy, but does allow each school district to tailor its policy to the specifics of its students.

The bill lays out 13 things that each district's policy must address, the policy must:

  • prohibit bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, and intimidation
  • describe the behavior expected from students
  • lay out the consequences of bullying - specifically allowing counseling or referral to anti-bullying services
  • include a procedure for reporting bullying, including anonymous reporting
  • encourage students and employees to report bullying
  • layout a procedure for investigating bullying
  • describe how a school district will respond to confirmed bullying
  • prohibit retaliation against people who report bullying
  • have a rule against intimation of witnesses and victims of bullying to prevent reporting
  • describe how a school district will respond to retaliation for reporting or intimation of witnesses or victims
  • specify how the policy will be publicized
  • specify that publicization of the policy must state that it applies both on campus and at off campus school sponsored events
  • identify which school officials are responsible for implementing the policy
I like this bill. However, it doesn't go nearly as far as SB 245 by Davis (which also requires schools to adopt anti-bullying policies). Davis' bill includes a host of other anti-bullying solutions, like a reporting requirement and permitting schools to transfer bullies to other classes or campuses (currently only the victim can be transferred), but the level of detail in Whitmire's policy requirement will make it difficult for recalcitrant districts to wiggle out of the requirement.

The best solution would be for Whitmire's policy requirement to be amended onto Davis' bill. Most of the time each half of the legislature (House and Senate) only sends one bill on a topic to the other for consideration. Since these two bills were introduced in the Senate it would be best if they were combined in the Senate. Senators Davis and Whitmire will need to work together to create the best synthesis of the two.

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