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National Bullying Prevention Month: Ohio bills push for mandatory suspension for school bullies

October 13, 2017 0 Comments

Two bills introduced by local Ohio lawmakers in September 2017 targeted an early end to bullying and pushed for faster interventions by schools to punish bullies. Although the bills, proposed by Sen. Sandra Williams and Rep. Dave Greenspan, adopt different approaches, they are similar in their intent of asking schools to stop ignoring bullying and take concrete steps to prevent such behavior.

Senate Bills (SB) 196 and 197, introduced by Sen. Williams, created a new offense called “aggravated bullying,” a third-degree misdemeanor carrying a maximum jail sentence of 60 days, and advocated a tiered disciplinary approach to deal with bullying, harassment or intimidation. Williams has proposed in-school and out-of-school suspensions for fourth and fifth violations respectively, after disciplinary measures of a warning, peer mediation and summoning a parent are unsuccessful. A sixth violation would require referring the case to a juvenile prosecutor.

Rep. Greenspan’s House Bill 360 adopted a tougher stance by recommending mandatory suspensions for first-time bullying offenses. The first offense would require schools to compulsorily suspend a student for up to 10 days and notify parents, while a second offense in the same calendar year would entail a maximum suspension of 182 days.

Williams aimed to target verbal and physical abuse. “We have students who are afraid to go to school every day. We need to nip this in the bud before it gets to a physical altercation,” she said.

To remind the society about supporting bullying prevention efforts in schools, within the community, and in the digital world, the U.S. observes the National Bullying Prevention Month every year in October.

Existing state laws do not mandate penalties for bullies

Bullying is regarded as a serious problem in Ohio. Schools are required to have a policy for handling bullying which should include “a procedure for responding to and investigating any reported incident.” However, both Williams and Greenspan are concerned that the existing state law does not mandate any penalties for bullies. According to Williams, other than some offenses, like assault or aggravated menacing, which are considered crimes, the state does not treat bullying as a separate crime. She said that the current laws are inadequate “unless someone puts their hands on another person.”

A key difference of opinion between Williams and Greenspan is regarding the severity of punishment for first-time offenders. Williams believes that children should not be automatically suspended – she wants to give them the “benefit of doubt, while holding them accountable for their actions.” Greenspan, however, believes in imposing stricter penalties right away. “By the time an act of bullying is raised to the level of being noticed by a school, does not mean that’s the first time it has happened,” he said.

Seeking help for mental disorders

Recent federal data published by the Department of Education shows a decline in nationwide bullying levels among students aged between 12 and 18 years. The prevalence of bullying among this age group declined to 22 percent in 2013 and 20.8 percent in 2014 after remaining consistent at 28 percent since 2005.

Despite this, bullying continues to be a cause of concern. Targets of bullying can face significant adverse effects, such as poor physical health, depression, violent behavior, substance abuse and suicidal ideation. Victims of bullying are also at a higher risk of developing mental disorders like depression and anxiety.

The effects of bullying can be quite damaging and parents and schools need to realize this. Both the victims and the perpetrators need professional help to overcome the effects of bullying. White River Academy is the leading troubled teen boarding school that aims to assist teenage boys aged between 12 to 17 years. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with our experts to know more about the best boarding schools for troubled teens to help your teen recover.

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