BILL O ’ BOYLE
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said bullying in schools is a “critically important issue with severe and enduring effects on its victims.
“We have to do what we can to assure the safety of our school children across the U.S,” Casey said. “This type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
Casey, D-Scranton, and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, on Tuesday introduced bipartisan legislation called the Safe Schools Improvement Act. “Bullying and harassment affect millions of students every year,” Casey said during a teleconference. “While we do have federal laws to provide support to promote school safety, there is nothing currently in place to comprehensively and expressly address issues of bullying or harassment.”
Casey said the Safe Schools Improvement Act will help ensure that every child receives a quality education and that will build self-confidence.
“This bill is a crucial step toward ensuring that no child is so afraid to go to school that he or she stays home for fear of bullying,” he said.
Kirk said bullying on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion has been growing at a rapid pace in the age of texting and online social networks.
“Our children need to feel protected and safe so they can learn and I hope the Casey/Kirk bill will encourage schools and districts to develop effective prevention and response protocols,” Kirk said.
Casey said there are numerous accounts of bullying that have had severe effects on young people.
“Some kids have taken their own lives,” he said. “Too many kids face ongoing and sometimes relentless bullying in school.”
Casey cited statistics that claim one in three students ages 12 to 18 are affected by bullying and harassment. He said more than 60,000 students do not attend school every day because of their fear of bullying. He said schools will be required to adopt a code of conduct to specifically address bullying.
“Some students with disabilities as well are victims,” Casey said. Kirk said kids face an increasingly hostile environment online.
“Nearly every blog has a story to tell,” Kirk said. “Cyber bullying is very much a part of 21st century life in America.”
Dr. Stacy Skalsi, director of public policy at the National Association of School Psychologists, said action must be taken now to address the growing bullying problem.
“We’re also concerned about bystanders – kids who are watching this unfold and do nothing,” she said. “This proposed legislation is a great first step in bringing attention to this issue.”
The Safe Schools Improvement Act would require schools and districts receiving designated federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment. The act would ensure that schools and districts implement effective prevention programs.