ALBANY–Recent news stories have highlighted incidents of bullying in New York schools that show peer abuse has become more pervasive and destructive.
An anti-bullying legislative package announced recently by Senator Steve Saland (R-41st) and other senators is intended to give schools the tools to help reduce bullying by including instructions about discouraging bullying within a school’s character education program and requiring all school employees to report incidents of bullying if they have a reasonable suspicion that a student is being victimized.
The package would also prohibit any type of bullying on school property and at school functions, increase the penalties for hazing, and establish a statewide central registry for reporting bullying, cyber-bullying and hazing complaints.
“Every student is entitled to a safe and bully-free learning environment. While schoolyard bullying is not a new phenomenon, technology has heightened the unrelenting and egregious acts of bullying and cyber-bullying. This bill will protect all students from the devastating and irreversible effects of bullying and provide our teachers and schools every tool possible to combat the pervasive and vicious cycle of bullying,” Senator Saland said in a press release.
New York is one of only seven states that do not have a specific law to target school bullying. Bully Police, a national watchdog group, has given the state its lowest possible grade for not passing a law to protect schoolchildren from bullies.
The release reports statistics show that efforts are working in states where bullying prevention is taught in schools. According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, bullying can be reduced by up to 50% when there is a school-wide commitment to preventative and educational programs aimed at raising awareness, increasing teacher and parent involvement, forming clear rules and strong social norms against bullying and providing support and protection for students.
The Anti-Bullying Plan consists of three bills that would:
·Require school districts to include methods for discouraging acts of bullying and cyber-bullying within the required instruction in civility, citizenship, and character education
·Define bullying and cyber-bullying and add these acts to the list of incidents for which disciplinary measures must be taken under the school district’s code of conduct
·Require all school employees to report incidents of bullying and cyber-bulling
·Create the crime of aggravated harassment of teachers and school personnel
·Establish a state hotline for individuals to report instances of bullying, cyber-bullying and hazing
·Elevate the penalties associated with the crimes of hazing, particularly in cases where a person is injured or dies.