Several dozen bills filed this session attempt to address the topic of bullying in Texas public schools. The bills range from being very direct and punitive, to bills that are more comprehensive and try to address both the cause and the consequences. Some think that bullying isn’t an important issue that deserves the legislature’s attention; others understand the serious impact bullying can have on the bully, the victim, and those witnessing the aggression.
Students with disabilities such as serious emotional disturbance, autism, intellectual disabilities and brain injury are at high risk of being the victims of bullying. They also are at times the bully. The foundation believes that it is important to address bullying comprehensively and not simply view it as individual behaviors requiring punitive consequences.
Efforts to address bullying by simply removing students from classrooms or campuses will not solve the underlying causes of the behavior and will do little to prevent the long term consequences of bullying. The foundation supports initiatives that:
- address bullying on a school-wide basis,
- provide comprehensive training for teachers and administrators,
- include campus-wide, age appropriate student awareness programs, and
- include mental health assessments and appropriate mental health treatment for both bullies and the victims.
It is also important that any bullying legislation includes a provision to ensure that any bullying issues involving children receiving special education services be addressed through the Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) committee and the student’s individual education plan (IEP). Bullying legislation should not be used as another avenue to remove students with disabilities from classrooms or campuses. Students receiving special education services are already over-represented in alternative education programs.
Chairman Eissler of the House Public Education Committee, has appointed a subcommittee to review all the bullying legislation filed in the House. The subcommittee headed by Rep. Strama will review the bullying bills and develop a bill that hopefully includes the best components of each. Rep. Strama’s bill HB 224, will likely be the vehicle for moving the legislation forward in the House.
In the Senate, several bullying bills have been heard in the Senate Education Committee. As of this writing, none have passed out of committee although Sen. Whitmire’s SB 205 may be voted on in Senate Education on Thursday, April 14th.
The status of these bills and others can be monitored on Texas Legislature Online at www.capitol.state.tx.us.