Laws, laws, and more laws — but bullying continues in schools. Are the current laws on the books being enforced? If not, then why not? Two Ohio politicians want to add more anti-bullying laws. Will these laws help or hinder?
Ohio law defines bullying as: Any intentional written, verbal, electronic, or physical act that a student has exhibited toward another particular student more than once, and the behavior both causes mental or physical harm to the other student, and is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive by creating an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for the other student.
The Ohio Department of Education endorses the Anti-Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Model Policy that contains procedures for reporting, documenting and investigating bullying (including cyber bullying). www.education.ohio.gov/.
See Ohio Revised Code 3313.666: District policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, or bullying required-effective in 2007. www.codes.ohio.gov/orc/3313.666.
Gov. Kasich signed the Jessica Logan Act (House Bill 116) into law in 2012. Logan, a Cincinnati teen, committed suicide after a sext (nude picture) sent to her boyfriend went viral at school and resulted in bullying.
HB 116 requires school districts to establish cyberbullying policies, to annually teach teachers and inform parents about bullying policies, and requires schools to teach students about the policies if state or federal funding is provided for that purpose.
In 2017, Ohio Senator Sandra Williams introduced Senate Bill 196 and Senate Bill 197 to further address bullying in the State of Ohio.
SB 196 would “Define crime of aggravated bullying” and “create the offense of aggravated bullying, a third-degree misdemeanor.” Status: Refer to Committee for Action.
SB 197 would “Deter harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools” and “require a tiered disciplinary procedure for harassment, intimidation, or bullying in school; to require annual student instruction about preventing such acts; and to create the offense of aggravated bullying as a third-degree misdemeanor.” Status: Refer to Committee for Action.
SB 197 lists increasing measures for each offense. The disciplinary steps in SB 197 would include:
1. a warning issued
2. peer mediation required
3. parents attend a meeting
4. in-school suspension for the fourth violation
5. out-of-school suspension for the fifth violation
6. referred to a juvenile prosecutor for the sixth
After the sixth violation, a student could be charged with aggravated bullying; punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of as much as $500. Williams’ bill would make bullying a crime.
In 2017, Ohio State Representative Dave Greenspan introduced his anti-bullying legislation as well. House Bill 360 will “Enact Ohio Anti-Bullying and Hazing Act” and endorse “Ohio Anti-Bullying and Hazing Act” with regard to school discipline and bullying and hazing policies at public schools and colleges.”
HB 360 would require the bullying victim’s family be notified before the start of investigations. The bill would require the bullying victim’s family be notified before the start of investigations. HB 360 would create a mandatory suspension for a student’s first bullying offense and expulsion for the second offense. And would require schools to offer counseling to the victim and the wrongdoer.
Connect bullying as a factor when youth commit suicide, and perhaps stricter and more stringent laws are warranted. Or could the money be better spent on more suicide prevention programs in schools and for parents?
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (2016), one out of every five students report being bullied.
Students who experience bullying are at increased risk for poor school adjustment, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression, according to the Center for Disease Control (2015).
What’s different about the recent proposed Ohio anti-bullying bills?
The bills would promote consistency in the implementation of investigations, intervention practices, and disciplinary responses across public schools in Ohio. School districts would be required to comply with mandatory suspensions, expulsions, criminalization of bullying, and counseling.
Bullying, a complex problem, requires a multitude of approaches and programs. Adults, we are the protectors and gatekeepers of emotional, social, and physical safety, as well as inclusion for our youth. And adults need to help both victims and bullies.
Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in southern Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.