Once cast off as a rite of passage or common behavior, the act of bullying can have lasting effects on a student’s academic achievement and emotional and physical health. Bullying can also lead to long-term discipline issues, especially among students of color and LGBTQ students, and children in these at-risk categories face higher levels of suspensions and expulsions. Issues related to bullying and school safety continue to be of concern to Black state legislators nationwide.
NBCSL members have ratified resolutions to provide safe and healthy school environments for all of America’s children. Of note are those passed in 2012 and 2013. Ratified first was YTH-12-27, Addressing Bullying and Intervention in Schools. This resolution calls on states to 1) pass effective anti-bullying legislation that addresses modern forms of bullying (such as cyberbullying), 2) improve training for teachers and other professionals, and 3) provide greater protections for victims and reporters of bullying. In 2013, EDU-13-34, Facilitating Safe and Supportive School Environments, was ratified. This resolution urges states to implement school discipline policies that improve school climates, keep students in the classroom, and eliminate disparities.
NBCSL held a series of policy symposia to convene lawmakers and devise concrete, collaborative solutions. NBCSL partnered with the Gill Foundation to host “Standing on Common Ground,” convening NBCSL members, national experts, and affected young people. Twelve states were represented at the symposium. During the meeting, legislators discussed best practices and community engagement in combating bullying and improving school safety.
Following the first Standing on Common Ground symposium, participants sponsored or co-sponsored more than a dozen bills related to issues such as bullying, harassment, hate crimes, and discrimination in the 2013 legislative sessions.
Representative Greg Porter(IN) successfully led the passage of HB 1423 Indiana’s school bullying bill, which was signed by Governor Mike Pence on May 11, 2013. The new law establishes professional training on how to identify, curtail, and respond to school bullying for school personnel. It also requires additional incident reporting by schools to create greater transparency between schools and parents. Final passage of the bill was the result of a fight that carried out over several years. Previous attempts to pass similar legislation was blocked by majority party opposition. Despite facing an even greater, supermajority in 2013, Representative Porter utilized data and integrated strategies learned at NBCSL’s symposium to build, convene, and shepherd the broad coalition needed to pass the bill.
Education experts in Indiana have lauded the bill for providing clear guidance on the definition of bullying and the responsibility of schools to create safe learning environments.
Other NBCSL members have also introduced legislation in Connecticut, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Ohio related to various forms of bullying and violence. Black state lawmakers continue to fight to ensure that schools are safe for all students. Through collaboration and partnership, NBCSL members have provided key support for one another to not only meet legislative goals, but to improve the lives of constituents of all ages.