A Missouri House Representative is pushing for new school bullying policies. Representative Sue Allen’s House Bill 134 was heard at a public hearing this morning by the Committee for Elementary and Secondary Education.
It calls for clear communication of any type of bullying to school faculty, students, and parents of the students. She said she has been keeping a close eye on this issue for some time.
“I’ve been very concerned for the last two years,” Allen said. “I’m hoping three’s a charm. This bill has gotten bogged down by people who tried to amend it, tried to change it, for the past two years. This bill needs to pass this year.”
Allen said the way in which the policy is communicated to the faculty, students, and parents is left up to the school districts. She said this bill did not face opposition at the hearing, and anybody who wanted to oppose would be responsible for any Missouri student being bullied.
A.J. Bockleman, the executive director of PROMO, is not part of the opposition. He is lobbying for Allen’s bill, and thinks it is sound, but could improve. Bockleman wants schools to list the most targeted students for bullying and why they were bullied.
“Teachers and administrators are not necessarily, specifically looking for certain characteristics in the crosshairs of bullying,” Bockleman said. “That’s where we have a problem. There’s a ban on enumeration like that. It keeps a school district from necessarily requiring all teachers to protect all students.”
PROMO is the main LGBTQ state advocacy group for Missouri. Bockleman said the bill calls for better training of teachers and administrators to recognize bullying. He said PROMO has found students discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation in urban areas are protected, but not as well in rural areas. Bockleman said teachers and administrators are reluctant to talk about sexual orientation, as well as protect against bullying for it in these areas.
The bill also goes on to define “cyberbullying” as, “the transmission of a communication including, but not limited to, a message, text, sound, or image by means of an electronic device.” It will require the State Board of Education to create model policies by Sept. 1, 2014, as well as authorize it to issue rules to implement these policies.