Schools Prepare for Anti-Bullying Law
A new anti-bullying law in Texas takes effect next school year. The adoption of House Bill 1942 in the last legislative session has school boards changing their policies and procedures to prepare for its implementation. Perhaps the biggest change is that bullies themselves can be moved to other campuses.
Almost one in five Texas teenagers says he or she has been bullied on campus at least once, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control. Even with all the attention on bullying in the past few years, some school districts still don’t know how to deal with the problem.
Flour Bluff ISD is one of five school districts in Corpus Christi. When 16-year-old Teddy Molina committed suicide this month after years of being picked on by a group of boys at school, the district initially denied it had a bullying problem.
“At this point in time, I sort of describe the Flour Bluff ISD as how not to deal with bullying and harassment in public schools,” says Chuck Smith of gay-rights group Equality Texas.
After lobbying for the new anti-bullying law with Equality Texas, Smith is happy that staff will be have required training on how to stop bullying when they see it. There are new staff procedures for reporting and investigating bullying. And a major provision in the new law allows the bully to be relocated to other classrooms or campuses. Smith says he thinks this is a good idea.
“It just provides an additional option,” Smith says. “If it’s in the best interests of the children for safety reasons for them to be separated, it gives them the option of having the victim not be the only child who might be moved.”
Some people who support the law are worried that transferring the bully would just transfer the problem. There needs to be a greater focus on prevention, says policy analyst Lauren Rose of Texans Care for Children.
“[Prevention includes] talking to that youth, determining if there are problems at home that are causing him to act out, and trying to address what those concerns are,” Rose says. “It’s working to make sure that we address the problems the bully is facing in order to prevent that bully from bullying.”
Some school districts in Texas say they are already doing that. Mel Waxler is the chief legal counsel at Austin ISD.
“Even when we see this happening in the second grade or third grade or fourth grade or fifth grade, it still behooves us to get involved with that child then,” he says. “We may be able to keep him or her from getting into any kind of more serious problems as they grow.”
Waxler says AISD uses a little-known provision under federal law to transfer the bully to another campus, but they’ve only done that a handful of times in the past decade because it’s a legal gray area. At least seven bullying victims in AISD have requested transfers to other schools since the beginning of the year.