Bullying is a problem that no parent or child wants to deal with, but many are.
Despite efforts on many levels to stop the harassment that often begins at a very early age, when Patch talked to kids, parents and school officials in the St. Louis area, we were hard pressed to find someone who hasn't either dealt with the issue personally or seen it take place. All agreed that an even bigger issue is that it's a hard problem to solve because the behavior begins at an early age and it's normally done when adults aren't around.
The issue is so big that students, parents, and teachers are scheduled to address the issue Thursday at the White House during a conference on bullying prevention.
Meanwhile, Town and Country Republican State Representative Sue Allen also admits it's a difficult issue, and she's already taking steps here at home that she hopes will help.
The Missouri House of Representatives is working to tighten current legislation on bullying in schools. Two recently proposed bills, House Bill 273 sponsored by Allen and House Bill 460 sponsored by Rep. Sara Lampe, a Democrat representing Springfield, are aimed at helping Missouri schools address the issue.
"It still happens, and it probably always will happen, but some kids fall through the cracks, so it needs to be tightened up," Allen said of the legislation she is sponsoring. "No one should be bullied, period. It's about helping to make every child safer."
Allen said her bill addresses all bullying and integrates "cyber bullying" into the legislation as another type of bullying. The goal is to make it clear to students, parents and school staff what is considered bullying and how to handle it, Allen told Patch.
House Bill 273 requires public schools to do the following:
- Post the district's bullying policy in a public space.
- Provide teacher, student and parental education on bullying.
- Have reporting procedures in place for instances of bullying.
- Have a procedure in place to investigate reports of bullying.
The bill does not tell districts what the policies must say, but that they must have policies in place. The goal is to empower schools to create their own procedures and policies and give them the power to do that with the backing of state law behind them, Allen said.
Allen tells Patch she also wants schools to begin addressing the issue of bullying with children at a young age.
"If you start talking to kiddos about bullying in junior high, you probably blew it. You need to start at a young age," Allen said. She doesn't have a specific age in mind, but has heard that third and fourth grade might be appropriate.
Allen said she wants that policy explained each year to parents, students and school staff so it is clear what the policy is and how to handle incidents of bullying. Her plan is to educated the bully and the victim.
"We want the school to be responsible for letting parents know about its bullying policy," Allen said. "So no one can ever say, 'I was never told.'"
House Bill 273 has been referred to the state education committee, but has not been reviewed and there is no date set for it to be reviewed. Allen said she hopes to have the bill in place for the 2011-2012 school year.
Allen said as the bill was created she took into account research provided to her by the St. Louis Junior League and insight from Tina Meier, whose daughter Megan was reportedly bullied online before committing suicide in Oct. 2006.