January 19, 2012
AUGUSTA – A measure that would protect students from bullying in Maine schools was stalled today during a work session of the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. The bill nearly passed into law in 2011 but was sent back to the Education Committee at the last minute in the face of opposition from the Christian Civic League.
“Maine students can’t afford for this bill to be delayed any longer,” said Rep. Terry Morrison, who sponsored the bill and has strongly advocated for it after hearing from hundreds of students and parents in his district. “While this measure gets held up by unnecessary political wrangling, students in schools across our state are being threatened and bullied by their peers.”
The bill requires each school administrative unit to adopt a policy to address bullying, which must include an emphasis on consequences that include alternative discipline. It will also specify responsibilities for reporting incidents of bullying and for implementing and enforcing the law and policies adopted by a school board.
“I’ve heard from students across the state about their personal stories, including one student who recounted a bullying incident where his peers sicced a dog on him after a school event,” said Morrison. “We must pass this bill right away to put an end to these kinds of tragedies. We can’t pretend this isn’t happening regularly in our schools.”
In 2010, there were at least 14 suicides resulting from bullying nationally. The National Education Association estimates that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.
71 percent of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school, and 56 percent of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school.
The committee is expected to vote on the bill next Tuesday.
Jodi Quintero [Morrison], 287-1488, c. 841-6279