LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A few days ago, Governor Asa Hutchinson addressed the 92nd General Assembly. The governor told lawmakers about his “growth agenda” which included lowering income taxes, reorganizing state government, a highway funding plan and raising teacher salaries.
Over the coming weeks, lawmakers will debate, fight and come up with alternatives as to what’s best for the Natural State. In the middle of it all is a proposed bill that has received some attention, but not enough in my opinion. It is also a bill that hopefully will receive support from both aisles.
House Bill 1003 was presented by State Representative Jimmy Gazaway who represents District 57. The bill is an amendment to the state’s anti-bullying policy. On the surface, it simply adds some teeth to the state’s current anti-bullying law by adding the following:
1. Require a school board member to receive bullying and cyberbullying prevention training.
2. Create the positions of school anti-bullying specialist and district anti-bullying coordinator and…
3. Establish a week of kindness
But if you dive deeper into the bill, it does more than just that. His bill states that “by strengthening standards for preventing, reporting, investigating, and responding to incidents of bullying, this act will help to reduce the risk of suicide among students and avert not only the needless loss of a young life, but also the tragedy that such a loss represents to the student’s family and the community at large.”
That’s a strong statement and I hope he is right. As many of you know, for the past five years, I have taken my “Step Up, Stop Bullying” program to hundreds of schools all across Central Arkansas. I have been blessed to talk to nearly 40,000 students about the dangers of bullying. So when I saw this bill, I had to take a closer look and I highly recommend you do to.
The bill also suggests the Department of Education “require two hours of professional development in teen suicide awareness and prevention for licensed public school personnel.” I’m not sure how the number of hours was determined, but hey, it’s a start in the right direction.
It also spells out anti-bullying policies and procedures that every public school should follow when and if a bullying incident occurs. It goes into great detail, including a specific timeline, on what a principal must do when a student is bullied. It also spells out what a parent is entitled to if their child is bullied and a report is investigated. I can’t tell you how many times I receive emails from parents who state the school is not doing anything following a bullying incident. While that may be true in some cases, I have found that many parents are simply unfamiliar with the process or what the definition of bullying is according to state law.
Gazaway’s proposed bill goes even further and recommends “that two times each school year, the superintendent of the school district shall report to the school district board of directors at a public hearing all the acts of bullying that occurred during the previous preceding period.” In other words, it’s time for each school to lay out the facts, the numbers, the reports and the types of discipline imposed. Those reports would then be given to the Department of Education who would then “grade each school district for purposes of assessing the school district’s efforts to implement policies and programs.” In other words — the school and the district will be monitored and forced to address the issue even more.
I could go on… as does his bill. But I suggest you read it for yourself. Read it twice… very carefully and then if you agree with it contact your lawmaker and let them know that this bill needs to pass. The last thing any of us wants is for another young child to take their own life… when it could have been avoided.
State Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R)