News Release from the Commission on Children
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Commission on Children staff available to explain new anti-bullying law
July 25, 1011—On July 13, Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law legislation that takes comprehensive steps to ensure every child's right to learn in Connecticut public schools without fear of teasing, humiliation, or assault. The legislation-Public Act 11-232, An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying laws-took effect immediately. To help everyone understand what the new law does, Connecticut Commission on Children Director of Policy and Research Analysis Thomas R. Brooks is available for interviews.
The law has its genesis in a November 2010 Commission on Children forum where more than 500 people heard the Obama administration's point person on bullying, Kevin Jennings of the U.S. Department of Education, recommend that every school do the following: 1) adopt a clear policy against bullying behaviors; 2) train all staff who interact with students on how to observe, prevent, and stop bullying; 3) ensure that all staff members take immediate action whenever they observe bullying; and 4) gather data to assess the level of bullying in the school. The new law requires all of these steps. (See below for details.)
The law responds to alarming evidence that bullying impedes Connecticut students' ability to succeed in school. Fully 25 percent of Connecticut high school students-and 35 percent of the state's 9th-graders-report having been bullied or harassed on school property in the previous year. According to the Connecticut School Health Survey, Connecticut high school students who report being bullied are more likely to get less sleep, miss school because they feel unsafe, have property stolen at school, carry a weapon to school, experience dating violence, suffer depression, and attempt suicide. More than 900,000 U.S. high school students reported being cyber-bullied in one year. Elementary and middle school children also experience bullying.
The new anti-bullying law, Public Act 11-232, does the following:
- All school employees, including bus drivers and cafeteria staff, must receive annual training on how to prevent and respond to student bullying and suicide. All teaching candidates and beginning teachers must also receive training.
- School employees must report acts of student bullying to school officials. They have one day to submit oral reports, three days to submit written ones.
- When they receive reports of bullying, schools must investigate them promptly. Parents of the children involved must be notified of the school's response and any consequences for students within 48 hours after the investigation's completion.
- Schools must respond to bullying whether it occurs at school, online, on a school bus, at a bus stop, at a school-related activity, or elsewhere. (Schools will respond to bullying outside the school setting if it creates a hostile environment at school for the bullied student, infringes on the rights of the student at school, or substantially disrupts the student's education or the orderly operation of a school).
- Each school district will appoint a safe school climate coordinator to help individual schools implement a safe school climate plan for the district.
- Each school will designate a safe school climate committee to identify and address bullying patterns in the school, review bullying reports and school policies, advise the district on its safe school climate plan, and educate the school community on issues related to bullying.
- The definition of "bullying" is amended to (1) add cyberbullying, (2) clarify what constitutes bullying, and (3) eliminate the "during the school year" phrase in the current definition that reportedly caused some school officials to "wipe the slate clean" and ignore bullying patterns that began before the current school year. The new bullying definition includes enumerated categories to clarify that bullying includes acts based on actual or perceived characteristics of students.