Schools comply with new Indiana bullying law

2014-03-18T17:00:00Z 2014-03-25T18:18:07Z Schools comply with new Indiana bullying lawCarmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

While schools across the country encourage anti-bullying programs, Indiana is one of the few states that require them.

Indiana's General Assembly passed an anti-bullying law last year that requires schools to offer programs and training for students and staff on preventing and identifying bullying.

Schools now have a definition of bullying — an imbalance of power, with a pattern or repeated acts over time, or acts done with the intent to cause harm.

A key component of Indiana’s new anti-bullying law required the Indiana Department of Education develop guidelines to assist school corporations and safe-school committees to establish bullying-prevention programs.

The law requires each school corporation to include the number and categories of bullying incidents in the school district's annual performance report. It requires each district train employees and volunteers to administer the district's bullying-prevention program and provide annual bullying-prevention education to students.

Each district must delineate procedures for investigating bullying behaviors in the school corporation's discipline rules, follow-up services for victim support and education for the bully. The school board is required to develop a policy that prohibits bullying.

MSD of Boone Township Superintendent George Letz said the Hebron district has a committee of teachers and administrators who have met with each of the schools and explained the law's new requirements. Letz said everyone must understand that what happens off school property is just as important as what goes on inside schools.

"We are starting now to put together a safety committee that also will involve parents," he said.

"We've been explaining to our teachers the new requirements of the law. They also have attended in-services outside of the building. Bullying has always been a problem, and I believe things like social media has made people more aware of it going on."

Letz also referred to the January incident where U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, R-Staten Island, "bullied" a New York news reporter, threatening to "break him in half." After initially saying he did nothing wrong, the congressman apologized to reporter Michael Scotto.

"That's a perfect example of bullying," Letz said. "As a school corporation, we have to figure out ways to stop it and prevent it from happening."

Letz called it a "constant battle" and have students in mentoring programs in an attempt to build up self-esteem to avoid bullying behaviors.

"When a child feels good about himself or herself, they won't revert to such activity," he said.

School Town of Highland Superintendent Brian Smith said he and his administrators "went through the law and carefully updated the language" in their anti-bullying procedures, he said.

Smith said the district had many things already in place.

"The biggest issue is the reporting requirement. We follow it closely. We changed our student handbooks. We updated the School Board policy to make sure the correct language is in place, and everyone understands all aspects of the new law," he said. 

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