Senator Eldridge Floor Speech on Anti-Bullying Bill

I rise in support of An Act Relative to Bullying, a bill that is based in large part on a bill I filed at the beginning of session.

I know we start here today in strong agreement that protecting children in the Commonwealth’s schools is a top priority. With that in mind our task here isn’t to debate whether we ought to act, but to discuss the best possible solution to the dire issue of bullying in schools throughout Massachusetts. The bill before us today represents years of hard work from many people, including my friend, and a former member of this body, Senator Robert Antonioni, who championed this legislation for years. I’ve been proud to carry that torch for him since his retirement from the Legislature.

In addition to the bill I filed, several other bills regarding bullying were also submitted this session — and I want to commend my colleague, the Senator from the Cape and Islands, and the entire Committee on Education, for the good work they did reviewing the various proposals and drafting the legislation we have before us. What we have today is a bill that has drawn on the best aspects of various legislators’ earnest attempts to tackle this tragic issue.

The Senator from the Cape and Islands, has clearly explained what this bill would do. I’d like to take this time speak to the importance of this legislation.

Something happened recently that clarified that importance for me. I received a group of letters recently, from 8th graders in my district, asking for my help in passing this important legislation. I want to read a few passages from these letters to you.

One young woman from Northborough, wrote about how she was “deeply troubled” by the bullying she saw. She’d seen so much bullying, she said, that the need for this legislation was obvious to her. She wrote: “But I can’t pass this law. I’m far too young to do that, and I don’t have the power either, which is why I need your help.”

One young man shared with me the startling toll bullying had had on him, “I have considered suicide myself and I want to protect others from that terrible experience,” he wrote.

Another student wrote about the bullying she and her friends had endured, addressing points we’ve heard all too often. She wrote, “…whispering and giggling when we walk down the hallways, tripping us, calling us mean names. Parents and teachers assume this is a phase…and it will eventually go away. No. Unfortunately the reality it is it’s not going to go away, if that’s what we always assume.”

Another student wrote to me about the particular threat of cyber bullying. She wrote: “Over texts my friend and her new best friend attacked me. I feel that these text messages, e-mails, etc. need to be stopped immediately.”

“Whether it’s face-to-face bullying or cyber bullying, it all hurts very deeply,” said another student.

Tragedies, such as the loss of Phoebe Prince in South Hadley and Carl Hoover Walker in Springfield, have acted as crushing reminders of the need to act, and act quickly, on this crucial, tragic issue. If there is any good that can come of these terrible events that have marred our schools, it is the momentum that has built behind this long-needed, long-overdue legislation.

I appreciate the thought and excellent work my colleagues have put into this issue and into this legislation. I’ll close with a quote from one of my student-constituents, because it’s as true for all of you as it was for me. Kayli, an 8th grader at Melican Middle School in Northborough, wrote to me, “With your help,” she said, “we can make schools a better place to be.” Thank you all for your time and hard work on this issue. I ask that you join me in helping Kayli and every child in the Commonwealth by supporting this bill.

3 thoughts on “Senator Eldridge Floor Speech on Anti-Bullying Bill

  • Dear Sen. Eldridge:
    The importance of this bill and your support of it cannot be underplayed. Only through education and awareness can we combat cyberbullying and bullycide.
    Coincidentally, at the same time that Phoebe decided to end her life, “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” was published. Phoebe’s story will be added in the revised edition. TCI presents real cases of teens in trouble regarding their emails, blogs, Facebook and YouTube posts, text messages and more. It is written for teens to read and learn from the experiences of their peers. Thanks for your willingness to stand up for our youth in this global fight against cyberbullying.
    Regards, Judge Tom.

  • Dear Sen. Eldridge:
    With all of the bullying that is happening every day, especially the bullying that has driven people to suicide, this is just the bill we needed! I would like to thank you for all the work you did to help get the bill passed.

    However, I am writing this knowing that this bill will not be enough to bring an end to bullying. Bullying is extremely easy to hide, either by doing it behind people’s backs, taking it to the Internet, or disguising it as groups of friends just joking around, so enforcing this bill is nearly impossible.

    Because of this, I feel that as politicians, the Massachusetts State Government has done their part to end bullying, but the other part of ending bullying that must be done is not something that can be done through legal change, it must be done through social change. The next and most important step that must be taken to end bullying is for the people to do their part as a community and show the world that we do not just have a bill telling us that we can’t bully people; we also have millions of people who will not stand for bullying, whether it is online or offline, whether it is overt or concealed, and whether it is by people of high or low social status.

    That is why I founded the Facebook cause, “Finish off Hazing and Bullying.” This cause is to do just what I said above; it is to raise awareness of hazing and bullying, and how to bring an end to hazing and bullying, while legal change helps, we still need social change, and that making this social change means showing the world that we will no longer stand for hazing and bullying and that we will no longer turn a blind eye to the ubiquitous problems of hazing and bullying.

    I am not sure if you have a Facebook page, but if you do, then you are invited to join, and all you have to join is get the causes application. However, whether or not you have a Facebook page, anyone can make a difference in bringing an end to hazing and bullying through social change, and as I can see by the fact that you got the bullying bill passed, you are definitely doing your part both as a politician and a member of the community by showing us that you yourself do not stand for bullying. Once again, thank you for passing that bill, and keep up the good work!

    Andrew Haskell, Tufts University Class of 2013, founder of Finish Off Hazing and Bullying

  • With all of the bullying that is happening every day, especially the bullying that has driven people to suicide, this is just the bill we needed! I would like to thank you for all the work you did to help get the bill passed.

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