TOPEKA — The House Committee on Education recently discussed a bill that aims to prevent and prohibit bullying in schools through policies and procedures in accordance with state law.
House Bill No. 2330 would create three new sections of law and amend the current bullying statute in place. The amendment redefines bullying, harassment and cyberbullying and includes the requirement of the adoption of a policy to prohibit these forms of bullying. It contains detailed provisions for how investigations of reports are to be handled and lists appropriate responses to bullying behavior. The bill also requires any student or staff member who witnesses or has reliable information regarding bullying, harassment or cyberbullying to make an initial report within 24 hours.
W. Thomas Gilman, a lawyer from Wichita, gave a testimony about his friend’s daughter who committed suicide after being continuously bullied and the lack of action from her school. From spitting on her to putting gum on her hair, Gilman described the substantial impact it had on the family, as well as the missed opportunities the school could have taken to prevent it all.
“I’m here after promising her parents that I will not give up,” Gilman said last Wednesday. “Please do not let this continue. This is a time to say ‘alright, let’s have our students protected.’”
Opposition to the bill was argued through the ambiguous definition of bullying and that it is a people problem, not a policy problem.
“We’re not going to solve all of the problems in the world, but this policy is a step forward,” Rep. Adam Thomas (R-Olathe), the sponsor of the bill, said in response.
Mark Dessetti, a lobbyist for the Kansas National Education Association, suggested legislature create a task force to take on the bullying epidemic, similar to the Alzheimer’s and dyslexia task force. Rep. Brenda Dietrich supported the suggestion as well.
“You’re not destined to succeed the way you want unless the whole community is involved,” Dessetti said.
Chairman Steve Huebert delayed any decisions, proposing to adjust the bill in future legislature meetings as well as consider forming a task force.
“I don’t want this to be just a conversation. Let’s get something done for our kids,” said Rep. Mark Samsel (R-Wellsville).
Paige Henderson is a University of Kansas senior from Lenexa majoring in journalism.