Oct 26, 2011

Supporting Anti-Bullying Laws Nationwide [Or, We Need To Appear Supportive, Even Though We're Fucking Jerks]

Eric Lerum is Vice President of National Policy at StudentsFirst.
We are moving in the right direction in our effort to eradicate bullying from schools. More than 20 states have taken up anti-bullying legislation in the past year. But we need to make sure that every state has strong policies in place that ensure a safe learning environment for every child.
Every child has the right to a high-quality education. This basic civil right should not be abridged by a student's zip code, the circumstances of their birth, or their sexual orientation. That is why we support policies that would expand educational choices, improve teacher quality and end bullying. It is why we supported legislation like the DREAM Act, which would ensure kids aren't punished for the actions of adults.
While almost all states have some anti-bullying law on the books, they vary greatly in form and strength. And, following several highly-publicized student suicides and a rise in cyber-bullying, officials are taking notice of the need to strengthen their laws and do more to not only protect students, but foster a safer school environment overall.
Comprehensive anti-bullying legislation should include the following key elements:
  • A clear definition of bullying and harassment of students;
  • Clear roles and responsibilities for schools, administrators, and teachers, as well as a requirement that all schools adopt anti-bullying policies;
  • Training for teachers, administrators, and students;
  • Investigation protocols for all reported incidents;
  • School-level staff teams dedicated to and focused on monitoring bullying incidents and school climate.

This year, New Jersey established what many consider the strongest anti-bullying law in the country with training for teachers and students, "safety teams" at every school, and investigation of bullying incidents within one day. Other states are also considering enhancing their ability to produce safer school environments including Washington, DC. We applaud and support those efforts.
Those of us focused on improving schools for students should view the attention given to this issue as cause for optimism -- momentum is with the state leaders and advocates who are tackling school bullying head-on. StudentsFirst is proud to stand with them.
Whether it's combatting student bullying, guaranteeing access to a great public school for any student, or ensuring that there is an effective teacher in every classroom, the goal is the same: we have to do whatever it takes to fulfill the promise of an excellent education for every student

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