On Second Anniversary of Anti-Bullying Legislation, AG Coakley, Legislators Vow to Continue Efforts to Combat Bullying
AG Coakley Urges Passage of Bill Requiring Statewide Annual Reporting Mechanism; Commits to Continue Commission Meetings to Advance Bullying Prevention Efforts
BOSTON—In light of the second anniversary of the passage of anti-bullying legislation in Massachusetts, Attorney General Martha Coakley, legislators, and other stakeholders are vowing to continue to support bullying prevention efforts and to advocate for ongoing efforts to address the challenges bullying presents. Tomorrow marks the second anniversary of the passage of An Act Relative to Bullying in Public Schools, comprehensive anti-bullying legislation signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick on May 3, 2010.
AG Coakley, as chair of a Commission established by the anti-bullying law, continues to advocate for the passage of An Act Relative to Implementation of the School Bullying Law, which would require schools to compile and submit annual reporting data on bullying. The legislation also calls on the Commission to continue its work, and to submit annual reports through June 2014. AG Coakley is also committed to continue holding Commission meetings to further support bullying prevention efforts across the state.
“The passage of this new law two years ago was an important step towards creating a supportive school culture across the Commonwealth,” said AG Coakley. “We will continue our efforts to address the challenges that educators, parents and law enforcement face in confronting bullying in our schools. We look forward to continuing this work with my colleagues in the Legislature and with the Commission on Bullying Prevention.”
"This two year anniversary of the state's anti-bullying law is a good time to both look back and look ahead,” said Representative Martha M. Walz, the author of the state's 2010 law. “Students, parents, teachers and administrators have had 24 months to reshape their school cultures to ensure that bullying is not acceptable and that immediate, strong steps are taken against those who perpetrate it. But, we can't rest. Changing the way young people interact with one another isn't easy and takes time. Preventing bullying must remain ongoing work in all our schools."
“I was proud to join my colleagues in passing this landmark anti-bullying law two years ago, which demonstrated our state’s continued dedication to protecting and supporting students throughout the Commonwealth,” said Representative Alice Peisch, House Chair of the Education Committee. “Looking ahead, it is imperative that we remain committed to the ongoing work of creating positive school cultures that ensure a safe and supportive learning environment for all students.”
“In the two years since the law was signed, we have raised awareness about the impact of bullying but we need to recommit ourselves to changing school culture,” said Derrek Shulman, Anti-Defamation League New England Regional Director. “We have a responsibility to Massachusetts students to ensure that schools are fulfilling their commitments. Passage of the law was the first step, we need to continue working together in schools across the state to make a difference in the daily lives of our children.”
“This law is making a difference in our schools. But after two years, it is now clear that we can do more,” said Kara Suffredini, Esq., executive director of MassEquality. “MassEquality supports House Bill 3584, An Act Relative to Implementation of the School Bullying Law, which would amend our two-year-old anti-bullying law so that school district bullying prevention plans would be required to explicitly identify those groups of students who are more vulnerable to bullying, including LGBT youth and families. We are grateful to the Attorney General for her leadership on this effort and hope lawmakers will enact House Bill 3584 soon.”
The bullying prevention law included a requirement for schools to create and implement bullying prevention plans and curricula and also updated several criminal statutes to address certain cyber-bullying conduct that may rise to the level of criminal behavior. It directed the Attorney General's Office to work with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and other agencies to develop a model bullying prevention plan and to identify the resources needed to create a school climate in which every student feels safe – in and out of school.
The law also gave responsibility to the Attorney General's Office to chair a Commission comprised of stakeholders from the law enforcement and education communities. The Commission 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 after the anti-bullying bill was signed into law. The Commission met seven times during 2011 to carry out its mission, including two public hearings, and collected testimony from over 50 people including educators, parents, civil rights advocates, law enforcement, and bullying prevention experts. In June 2011, pursuant to the duties of the Commission as outlined in the bullying prevention law, the Commission made several recommendations to the Legislature to improve school culture and measure the nature of bullying in the Commonwealth.
The Commission also filed legislation, An Act Relative to Implementation of the School Bullying Law, based on its work. In October 2011, during a legislative hearing on this bill, AG Coakley urged members of the Joint Committee on Education to require schools to compile and submit annual reporting data on bullying to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in order to improve bullying prevention efforts in the Commonwealth. 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. The legislation also calls on the Commission to continue its work, and to submit annual reports through June 2014. On March 8, 2012, the Joint Committee on Education reported this legislation out favorably with an additional requirement that school districts conduct anonymous student surveys to further analyze the extent of bullying in schools.
Although the Commission fulfilled its legislative obligation by making recommendations on its findings, the Commission has decided to meet on a voluntary basis in order to continue to support bullying prevention efforts across the state and to advocate on behalf of the recommendations it made.