Reporting Steve Pickett
(CBS 11 NEWS) – The anti-bullying edict, House Bill 1942, requires schools to try to prevent bullying and to intervene if and when harassment occurs. But can the law stop bullying and what exactly protects your child?
“Conduct that has the effect of physically harming a student, or placing that student in fear of harm…. using written, verbal, even electronic acts.”
The words are at the center of the state’s definition of “bullying”. A former teacher, now Texas lawmaker, helped craft what is now known as Texas’ anti-bullying statute.
“For the past several years, constituents and others have been coming to our offices, telling us the concerns of the safety of their child, due to the threat of bullying,” said State Representative Diane Patrick.
Patrick calls it a law whose time had come.
“We had instances across the state, instances that were occurring more frequently, and concerning parents and children about being safe at school.”
And school districts are at the heart of finding, fighting and combating the spread of bullying.
Scott Winn, Wylie ISD Assistant Superintendent, leads the Wylie school district’s development of discipline for students who bully and protections for students who are bullied.
Wylie, along with every public school system in Texas, is required to develop policy on investigating bullying allegations and implementing procedures when it occurs.
“When we have repetitive bullying, the state says we can remove the bully from a campus and move them to another school outside of the school that they’re in,” Winn said.
Liz Ferigno leads an anti-bullying student program for area schools through the Family Place, a support program for victims of domestic violence. The new law must also let students and parents know what bullying is and what it is not.
“For bullying, the behavior is intentional. There’s intended harm. It’s repeated,” Ferigno said
For Richardson ISD educator and high school administrator Mike Westfall, he is not only part of his school’s anti-bullying committee; he is the willing role model. Westfall was bullied himself as a teenager.
And he urges students to not only follow his lead today, but not follow the silence he held as a bullied teenager.
“I think the reason we’re here is that we want to bring attention to it, so no one has to go through what, not just me, but hundreds, thousands of kids go through,” Westfall said.
School districts like Richardson ISD have had anti-bullying rules for students well before there was a state law, but the law now requires every school district create policy that prohibits bullying.
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