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.