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Boston and Beyond

May 31, 2013

Anti-bullying law changes pitched

BOSTON — The state’s landmark anti-bullying law could see some changes to stiffen reporting requirements on school districts and create a recognition that certain students are more vulnerable to bullying.

Lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Education heard yesterday from advocates pushing to require school districts to collect data on bullying incidents and report the information to the state. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would then be required to review the data and publish an annual report containing aggregate, statewide information on the frequency and nature of bullying in schools, under the bill.

Schools would also be required to specify “enumerated categories of students” more likely to be bullied, under the legislation sponsored by the Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) and Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), co-chairs of the Education Committee.

Under the bill, schools would put in their prevention plans a statement recognizing that certain students are vulnerable to bullying, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students as well as students with special needs. Schools would also need to detail the steps they will take to create a safe environment for those students.

Similar legislation failed to pass in the Legislature last session, after clearing the Education Committee.

While advocates say it is the next step to enhance the tough 2010 anti-bullying law and help rid schools of the destructive behavior, opponents argue it would be another burden on school districts unable to comply with the law because it is unfunded.

The anti-bullying law required school districts to develop bullying prevention plans, put new restrictions on student use of technology to harass another person, and required teachers be trained to recognize and intervene in bullying cases. Some critics charge it was an unfunded mandate that failed to provide the resources for local school districts to train teachers and staff.

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