Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Colorado's School Bully Bill - HB 1254

An effort to rein in online cyber-bullies, as well as their more conventional counterparts, will soon be considered by lawmakers once the final details are agreed upon by all stakeholders involved—except, of course, the bullies themselves.

The measure, House Bill 1254, would update existing bullying policies, require data collection, and set up a website with anti-bullying resources.

Rep. Sue Schafer, D-Wheat Ridge, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the update is needed, in part, due to what she calls cyber-bullying and more verbal assaults. Schafer says the new variations on bullying have become rampant in recent years among school kids. She blames adult behavior that she believes kids have picked up. House Speaker Pro Tem Kevin Priola, R- Henderson, is also sponsoring the measure.

“With all the talk radio and combative conversations among adults, children are hearing more from parents, mass media, TV, blogs and such that are influencing them,” said Schafer.

Social media tools are also providing a platform for the bully rhetoric that children are engaging in, says Shaffer, and schools need to become more aware.

“We want to send a message and be proactive before there’s another tragedy,” Schafer continued. “Schools need to be self-educated about social media. Let’s do what we can.”

Jane Urschel , executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, said the bill would not only be burdensome for schools who will have to form and adopt a new bullying policy, but it also asks them to address an issue they are already acutely aware of.

“This bill would put mandates on districts that they can’t afford,” said Urschel. “The school districts are not ignoring this issue and want every child to be safe. Schools already have a handle on this.”

Urschel also said she is hopeful that the bill will be redrafted in such a way that her organization won’t have to oppose the bill outright.

The bill will be heard in the House Education Committee on Monday, and at least one of its members, Rep. Robert Ramirez, R-Westmnster, has already said he is skeptical of the need for it.

“I have a huge problem with legislating personal behavior,” said Ramirez. “Bullying is something that is already addressed by schools as incidents occur. A state law isn’t going to change anything.”

According to the Colorado Trust Bullying Initiative, of students surveyed in 2008:

• 57 percent reported verbal bullying

• 33 percent reported physical bullying

• 10 percent reported online bullying

Via - Colorado News Agency

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