Renewed Push To Fight School Bullying

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Kansas Legislators are debating two different bills that would change the state bullying laws.

A 2008 law requires schools to have a bullying policy, but it doesn't require them to keep or report statistics. Now, a state board of education member is pushing a bill that would change that.

Wichita high school student Rhianna Morawitz took her own life last fall. Her father said she was the victim of bullying. Now he and State Board of Education member Walt Chappell want more done.

"I have heard from a number of parents and teachers saying they are concerned bout the bullying in our schools, including cyber bullying," Chappell said.

SB278 would force school districts to keep and report bullying statistics, and it would require a uniform bullying policy across the state.

"A child in one school is very well protected and another child in another school, the principal won't take it seriously at all," said Chappell.

USD 259 lobbyist Diane Gjerstad does not support SB 278.

"It is really important to let school districts look at these individually, there is going to be different things going on in different towns and communities across the state," said Gjerstad.

She does back another bill that would require individual school districts to develop bullying policies with families, communities and administrators. It would also require the policy to be clearly posted on each districts website, and the policy would be reported to the State Board of Education.

"We take it very seriously," she said. "We put into place an anti-bullying campaign. Can we get better? Absolutely."

Rhianna Morawitz' father says he wants all bullying or harassment cases to be required to be reported to a school principal within 24 hours. He also wants the school to complete its investigation within 10 days. He plans to address the House Education Committee in a couple of weeks.

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