Summary: This act would require schools to develop a bullying prevention and intervention plan in consultation with teachers, school staff, professional support personnel, administrators, students and parents.
Why This Matters: Bullying – including cyberbullying – is a widespread problem throughout schools across the country and here in Massachusetts, a fact that has been confirmed by many studies. For example, a 2007 study conducted by the National Association of School Psychologists, found that 40% of students reported to be victims of bullying at least once within the past 30 days.
The effect of bullying on students is profound, with serious short and long-term ramifications. There is overwhelming research that clearly shows links between bullying and increased school violence, substance abuse, absenteeism, low self esteem, suicidality, loneliness, isolation, depression and poor academic achievement.
Every student deserves to feel safe in their own schools – but because of widespread bullying, many do not. Although some school districts have shown leadership on this issue and developed prevention plans, the fact remains that most districts do not have a plan or any type of intervention strategies to deal with bullying incidents.
What this Bill Would Do: This act would require schools to develop a bullying prevention and intervention plan in consultation with teachers, school staff, professional support personnel, administrators, students and parents. The bill also defines bullying and cyberbullying, to help protect families against bullying situations that we are seeing more and more through the internet.
Bullying is a symptom of poor school climate. Studies have shown that most successful anti-bullying programs focus largely on the student population as a whole, to create a school environment that does not foster unwelcome behaviors in any of their students. That’s why this bill requires schools to develop a comprehensive plan, rather than simply address individual situations as they occur.
Research also shows that having local policies on bullying is one of the most effective strategies of preventing escalating violence in schools, which is why this bill focuses on creating prevention plans at the school level.
The legislation is designed to give students and parents more input into when they think their children are being bullied or harassed, how and documenting the issue for investigation by the school district. It offers some level of accountability on the school district to create a safer school climate, does not allow for a private remedy against the school district.