Taking on bullies


The Courier-Journal, Louisville

The Kentucky Center for Safe Schools estimates that as many as a third of the states students either bully others or are targets of bullies. Thats not unusual, which is why 22 other states have already adopted anti-bullying legislation and why the General Assembly should add Kentucky to the list.

Liberal and conservative advocacy groups, including the Family Foundation of Kentucky and the Catholic Conference, are backing the proposed anti-bullying law. The Kentucky House Education Committee unanimously backed House Bill 270 this week, and a similar measure, Senate Bill 15, has been referred to the Senates education committee. The bills key sponsors are Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton, and Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort.

Even though about 170 of Kentuckys 176 school districts have anti-bullying policies, backers of the law say that enforcement is uneven. A new law would help by requiring school districts to report to the state when students either are disciplined as or are targets of bullies more than three times in a semester. In addition, it would ensure that school councils allow parents to review anti-bullying policies and give them input into curricula designed to raise awareness.

Undoubtedly, an anti-bullying law would add to school districts paperwork. But not significantly enough to pose an unreasonable burden, especially given that students safety is at stake. Experts have found, for example, that both those who bully and those who are bullied often suffer physically, emotionally and academically. Bullying also appears to have been an underlying factor in some of the more notorious incidents of school violence.

Certainly, any law should be careful to protect free speech, but it must be broad and explicit enough to protect all children and condone no excuses.

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