School bullying could become a state crime

School bullying could become a state crime

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

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TALLAHASSEE — Bullying a student or school district employee would become a crime under a bill approved by members of the House Committee on K-12.

House lawmakers have tried to get the bill, HB 669, approved for the last three years. Last year, it never made it out of a Senate committee.

Thirty-five of 67 school districts already have anti-bullying policies. Palm Beach County specifically names and prohibits bullying as part of its harassment policy.

Bullying is defined as "systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress," under the bill. It can include theft, intimidation, destruction of property, threats, physical violence and sexual, religious or racial harassment.

The proposal covers face-to-face interactions as well as cyberbullying. If a student is caught bullying, school district administrators must notify the parents of the victim as well as those of the accused bully.

School districts could lose funding, beginning with the 2010-2011 school year, if they do not comply with reporting requirements under the bill.

"If you don’t bring (in) the parents of the bully, sometimes the parents don’t know what they’re doing," said Rep. Nicholas R. Thompson, R-Fort Myers, one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

Sen. Stephen R. Wise, chairman of the Education PreK-12 Appropriations, stalled the bill last year. His staff said this year he will hear the bill.

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