Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bullying Legislation, At Last…*

A comprehensive anti-bullying legislation is, at last, law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is now, however, up to the schools, the parents, and the kids themselves to take all the necessary steps to eliminate bullying from our schools, our streets, and cyberspace.

I’ve written numerous blogs on this topic, beginning with the 2006 suicide of Megan Meier, who hanged herself three weeks before her fourteenth birthday. It took more than a year of prodding and prompting by Meier’s parents to get an investigation into the matter. Megan’s suicide was attributed to cyber-bullying through the social networking website MySpace. Lori Drew, the mother of a classmate of Meier, was later indicted in 2008. But in 2009, Mrs. Drew was acquitted on the basis that there “are no laws making the cyber-bullying, harassment and abusive actions” of Mrs. Drew a felony.

In 2009, 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover was found by his mother hanging by an extension cord on the second floor of their Springfield, MA home. The boy had been bullied and taunted daily at school, yet despite the pleases of his mother, nothing worthwhile was done to prevent this from continuing to happen to the boy.

The last straw seems to have been the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince of South Hadley, MA. Her death prompted a vociferous call for action. Four months later, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed the new legislation (one, I might add, with some teeth), includes anti-bullying initiatives in student handbooks, classroom instruction, and strict new rules for reporting incidents of bullying. The law includes:

  • training adults on how to identify, prevent, and manage incidents of bullying
  • new reporting requirements for all school staff to “fully and swiftly detail any instance of bullying or retaliation to the appropriate school official”
  • directs the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish statewide academic standards that include instruction in bullying prevention and requires schools to provide age-appropriate instruction on bullying prevention

Each school district is also required to provide targeted professional development to all teachers, administrators, athletic coaches, bus drivers, and custodians on the prevention, identification, and appropriate response to bullying incidents.

Will all this help? While laws will not stamp out bullying altogether (we need only look at the vast majority of laws continuously broken to know this to be true), laws can reduce drastically the number of incidences and give victims of bullying much needed protections.

Have a joyful day everyone. - Rita
Visit my website at http://www.ritaschiano.com

*Written for KidsTerrain.com. Reprinted with permission.

1 comment:

  1. Bullying starts in the home. Some where these kids are learning it's OK to put other people down and be mean spirited. So now we've created laws. But how are these laws going to teach parent to teach compassion towards others? I am not sure. I think these events are yet another symptom for an underlying illness in our social culture.