AG Coakley Urges Legislature to Adopt Mandated Collection of Bullying Data and Focus on Vulnerable Populations
BOSTON - Annual reporting data should be compiled and submitted by schools in order to improve bullying prevention efforts in the Commonwealth, Attorney General Martha Coakley told members of the Joint Committee on Education today.
The findings are part of a report and accompanying legislation introduced by the Commission to Review Statutes Relative to Implementation of the School Bullying Law (the Commission) convened as part of the state’s anti-bullying law enacted last year. AG Coakley testified today in support of the report and H.B. 3584, An Act Relative to Implementation of the School Bullying Law. In addition to the data reporting requirement, the bill would require schools to make explicit in their anti-bullying plans that certain categories of students are particularly vulnerable to bullying and harassment, and extend the term of the Commission by two years.
“By requiring strong bullying prevention and education efforts in our schools, it sent a strong message that our Commonwealth will no longer tolerate a culture that allows for the constant harassment of our children,” said AG Coakley. “We believe the recommendations offered in this legislation are the common-sense next steps to that landmark anti-bullying law as we continue this critical work to protect our children. The annual reporting mechanism would provide a valuable tool to measure the effectiveness of the new law, identify trends, and focus resources where they are most needed.”
On May 3, 2010, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a landmark anti-bullying bill for Massachusetts. Provisions of this new law include requirements for schools to create and implement bullying prevention plans and curricula. The bullying prevention law also updated several criminal statutes to address certain cyber-bullying conduct that may rise to the level of criminal behavior.
The Commission, chaired by AG Coakley, was charged with reviewing the Massachusetts General Laws to consider whether any laws needed to be amended or created in order to more effectively address bullying and cyber-bullying. The Commission held public hearings in Boston and Springfield, and gathered testimony from more than 50 people including educators, parents, civil rights advocates, law enforcement, and bullying prevention experts.
The full recommendations made by the Commission, based on testimony at the hearings and additional deliberations by Commission members, were:
- The Legislature should establish a mechanism for annually reporting data regarding bullying to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education;
- The Legislature should require that schools make explicit in school anti-bullying plans that certain enumerated categories of students are particularly vulnerable to bullying and harassment;
- The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education should continue to emphasize and publicize the Department’s problem resolution system;
- The Legislature should consider additional funding sources for training initiatives and for DESE’s work;
- Schools and school districts must work to foster parental involvement to stop bullying and resolve incidents of bullying;
- No new or additional criminal laws are necessary at this time;
- The Legislature may wish to extend the term of this Commission for two years.
The members of the Commission on Bullying Prevention were:
Martha Coakley, Chair, Massachusetts Attorney General
Michael Bellotti, Sheriff, Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association
David Capeless, Berkshire County District Attorney
Steve Clem, Executive Director, Association of Independent Schools in New England
Michael Long, General Counsel, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents
Mary Lyons, Police Chief, Mattapoisett, MA Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association
Laura Salomons, School Committee Member, Sharon, MA, Massachusetts Association of School Committees