With several high-profile bullying incidents in the news, many legislators are working to stop bulling and prevent bully-related tragedies. On September 1, 2011, New Jersey's tough, new anti-bullying law took effect. And now, Pennsylvania is trying to join New Jersey at the forefront of aggressively addressing bullying.
Two anti-bullying bills currently before committee were introduced by Representative Michael O'Brien (D-Philadelphia). The first bill would make bullying, including cyberbulling, a crime in Pennsylvania. For minors, the first two incidents of bullying committed would be considered summery offenses; minors charged with subsequent offenses would be charged with third-degree misdemeanors.
The second bill would require Pennsylvania school district to revise their anti-bullying policies state a prohibition of bullying in the school, explicitly state what type of behavior is expected from pupils, and lay out the consequences for those that bully other students. School districts would also be required to explicitly state that retaliation for reporting acts of bullying would be prohibited, even if the reported bullying was made up.
Further, the second bill would redefine bullying to include any acts of bullying, whether the bullying occurred on school grounds or off, as long as the bullying interfered with schooling. The definition would include any physical or emotional injury to a students, damage to personal property, actions that place students in fear of physical or emotional injury, or actions that are demeaning or insulting to students.
In addition to the two bills introduced by Rep. O'Brien, a third bill, introduced by Rep. Tim Briggs (D-Montgomery) would add to those introduced by Rep. O'Brien. Rep. Briggs' bill would require teachers to take classes on bullying, require school districts to provide suicide prevention training, require schools to form a bullying task force, and further defines bullying and cyberbulling.
A bill very similar to Rep. Briggs has been introduced before the Pennsylvania Senate.
With the introduction of anti-bullying legislation, it is clear that state officials are taking bullying and the consequences of bullying very seriously. Being accused of bullying is a serious charge, and if the proposed legislation passes the consequences could be harsh. If you or your son or daughter is accused of bullying, take the accusations seriously and speak to an attorney will take the accusations just as serious.