Washington Gov. Gary Locke and other top state officials on Jan. 25 announced the filing of an anti-bullying bill that would require every school district to create a policy to deal with student harassment on school property. The bill was touted as a way to head off incidents that could lead to school violence.
“The bullying we remember as kids is not the bullying we know today,” said Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire. “We must go after this code of silence that exists in our schools today.”
Under the bill, each school district must outline its anti-bullying policy to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction by Sept. 1, 2002. The policies would have to include systems for reporting and investigating all complaints, and districts would be required to provide training to school employees and volunteers who had “significant contact” with students.
The policy would be effective on school property, at school-sponsored events, and at school bus stops. State officials defined bullying and harassment as any written, verbal, or physical act that would harm a student or a student’s property.
The bill faces opposition from some legislators, including Rep. Gigi Talcott, R-Tacoma, co-chairwoman of the House Education Committee, who says the definition of harassment and bullying would be too subjective and the training would create more work for overworked teachers.
Locke proposes to spend $500,000 to help school districts implement the new policies.