GOVERNOR PATRICK SIGNS NEXT STEPS IN ANTI-BULLYING LEGISLATION
Governor Patrick signs H. 3909, “An Act Relative to Bullying in Schools.”
(Photo: Samantha Hooper/ Governor's Office)
BOSTON – Thursday, April 24, 2014 – Governor Deval Patrick today signed H. 3909, “An Act Relative to Bullying in Schools.” The legislation requires school districts, charter schools, approved private-day schools, residential schools and collaborative schools to develop bullying prevention plans that will ensure they remain safe and supportive places for the Commonwealth’s students to learn and thrive. It also includes procedures for collecting, maintaining and reporting bullying incident data.
"This legislation is an important step toward ensuring that all young people are able to learn and thrive in our Commonwealth's schools,” said Governor Patrick. “With this new law, we are continuing our dedication to our teachers, parents and kids to give them the tools and protections they need so that every student has a chance to reach their full potential."
Under the legislation, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will be required to analyze collected bullying data and publish annual reports on the frequency and nature of incidents. Additionally, DESE will develop a survey to be administered to students every four years to assess overall school climates and the prevalence, nature and severity of bullying to better determine measures needed to prevent it.
The bill, sponsored by Representative Alice Peisch and Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, passed with strong bipartisan support in the Legislature.
In 2010, Governor Patrick signed landmark anti-bullying legislation to strengthen efforts in schools to keep Massachusetts students safe. The 2010 law increased efforts to educate students about bullying including regulations on student handbooks and classroom instruction; instituted new rules and expectations for reporting incidents of bullying; provided new opportunities for training for all adults in schools on how to identify, prevent and manage incidents of bullying; and enhanced efforts across state and local education, health and law enforcement agencies to build more collaboration to ensure the new efforts are effective. The law also included new reporting requirements for all school staff to fully and swiftly detail any instance of bullying or retaliation to the appropriate school official. Additionally, the measure directed the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) to establish statewide academic standards that include instruction in bullying prevention and requires schools statewide to provide age-appropriate instruction on bullying prevention.
“This new law is the next step on our path to protect children from bullying,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley. “It will better protect students who we know are most vulnerable to bullying, including our LGBTQ students and those with disabilities. It will also allow us to better track the effectiveness of our bullying programs across the Commonwealth. I applaud Governor Patrick for his commitment to combating bullying in our schools. And I also would like to thank Senate President Murray, Speaker DeLeo, co-sponsors Senator Chang-Diaz and Representative Peisch, and MassEquality and the Anti-Defamation League for their leadership on this important issue.”
“With the advent of cyber-bullying, it is becoming more pressing than ever that we crack down on bullying and provide more protections for our students,” said Senate President Therese Murray. “Everyone deserves to learn and grow in a safe environment, and this legislation builds off of the 2010 law to further allow the state to identify and respond to bullying trends in our school districts.”
“It is our duty to ensure students are safe and are able to maximize Massachusetts’ educational resources to the full extent,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “I believe the enhanced anti-bullying legislation will allow us to better understand and prevent these types of acts. I thank my colleagues in the House, Senate President Murray and the Governor for their collaboration and leadership.”
"This law goes the next step in ensuring we are doing all we can to protect our students," said Secretary of Education Matthew Malone. "The teachers and principals I meet across the Commonwealth are doing great work to eliminate bullying. This law will help support their efforts."
“Together we are taking another step toward ending, once and for all, bullying in our schools,” said Representative Denise Andrews. “This law strengthens our anti-bullying efforts by measuring performance and ensuring greater accountability for progress. It is important also to affirm and reinforce the positive examples and productive relationships between youth and adults. Our future efforts must ensure that adults continue to play a leading role in schools and communities, modeling respectful problem solving and communication, so that we may provide an environment where every child is valued, respected, and has the support they need to be successful.”
“After the Legislature passed the original landmark anti-bullying bill, of which I was a proud sponsor, my office received a call from a tearful 10-year-old boy who was so incredibly thankful that we passed a bill that could prevent other kids from having to go through the bullying he endured at school,” said Representative Lori Ehrlich. “It’s for him and others like him that we continue to work to give schools the tools they need to address bullying. I appreciate the leadership of Governor Patrick and the bipartisan efforts of the Legislature toward making our schools safer and more supportive places for every student.”