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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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States Struggle With the Proper Response to Bullying

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Across the nation, parents are growing restless with inadequate responses to a growing problem in public schools: bullying. These parents, and other anti-bullying advocates, point out that even though 44 states have enacted laws that expressly ban bullying, few states and even fewer school districts are taken the necessary steps to enforce the laws and protect victims. In a country where one-third of all children aged 12 to 18 report being bullied, states are scrambling to provide the proper remedy to a previously overlooked problem.

In April, 11-year-old Jaheem Herrera committed suicide in his Atlanta-area home. His parents claim that he was continuously bullied at school. School district officials denied the allegations. Nevertheless, after his death, many other parents have come forward stating that their children were bullied in the same school district, and that school officials ignored or failed to act on such complaints. Georgia’s law on anti-bullying did not even apply to Jaheem’s situation, because he was only a 5th grader and the law only applies to those in grades six through twelve.

While most states have some form of law designed to prevent bullying, few states require that specific data be collected and gathered for the purpose of monitoring bullying. Many other states do not enforce provisions that cut off state funding for schools that do not provide required data.

Some of the most vigilant anti-bullying advocates are themselves parents whose children were affected by bullying. Brenda High, who runs the website Bully Police USA, started tracking anti-bullying laws and pushing for harsher consequences on the perpetrators after her 13-year-old son Jared committed suicide after complaining of bullying. Ms. High believes that bullying should have the same consequences as an assault, such that if someone is a chronic bully they should be moved to an alternative school.

Georgia, where Jaheem lived, actually has such a policy. However, because data is not collected on bullying by the department, it is impossible to know if a child has ever been transferred because of bullying.

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    The Minnesota legislature passed a bill this year but it was vetoed. It is so sad to hear of the number of suicides by kids that were bullied. It is time that more people started to pay attention to this issue.