A bill requiring South Dakota schools to put in place a bullying policy passed the House Education Committee on Monday after a debate over local control.
SB 130 would require each school district have a bullying policy, provide suggestions for what such a policy should include and write a model policy that would take effect if school districts didn’t act.
The debate in committee centered not on whether the bill should pass but in what form. Specifically, some lawmakers supported saying districts “shall” include certain criteria, while others preferred saying they “may” include those criteria.
Attorney General Marty Jackley proposed the looser language.
“An anti-bullying policy should have local control as its cornerstone,” Jackley said. “I would submit to you that what goes on in my hometown of Sturgis, South Dakota, is different from what goes on in Sioux Falls.”
But some legislators like Rep. Jacqueline Sly, R-Rapid City, and Rep. Patty Miller, R-McCook Lake, said stricter language would better combat bullying in schools.
“With all due respect, maybe it’s time that we mandate here,” Miller said. “If you leave it as ‘may,’ that leaves it open.”
There are 12 school districts in South Dakota that don’t have a bullying policy.
In a close 7-6 vote, Jackley’s argument carried the day. The full bill then passed the committee unanimously.
A lobbyist for the Rapid City School District supported SB 130 in both the strict and permissive forms. Also backing the bill were representatives of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, the School Administrators of South Dakota, and the South Dakota Education Association.
SB 130 now heads to the full House of Representatives. If it passes there, it will have to go back to the Senate to resolve the differences with the version that passed that house earlier.
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