A bill that proponents say would have strengthened the state’s anti-bullying law stalled in the House after passing the Senate 32-3.
House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, expects the bill to come back in some form next session. Moyle said there were a few problems with the bill this time around that prevented it from getting a vote in the House. “The title was wrong on the bill, it didn’t fit what was in the bill. There was also a word that needed to be changed down at the bottom of the bill.”
Moyle said there was talk of sending it back to committee to make the necessary fixes, but the sponsors of the bill didn’t want to do that. “There was a lot of controversy around that bill. Some people were against it and some people really liked it. But, in the end, if the title is no good and a word needs fixing, the bill is no good. I expect you’ll see it again next year and there will be some touch-ups, the title will be fixed obviously, and it will be a better bill.”
Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, who carried the bill (S 1105) on the House floor, said it sat on the calendar along with several other bills, at leadership’s discretion. Perry doesn’t rule out the bill, or at least something similar, for next session. “It is my understanding the bill will come back next session,” she said.
The bill aimed to mandate punishment for public school bullies. The plan would also have offered more training to teachers and other school staff about how to prevent bullying, intimidation and harassment. The bill also made it a requirement for staff to break up bullying.
During debate on the Senate floor, lawmakers expressed the effects and impact of bullying in public schools.
“Parents expect and want their students to be safe when they go to school,” said Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint.
Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, added that bullying is an important factor in suicide among school-aged students.
Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, who was the only member to debate against the bill on the Senate floor, disagreed with the bill. “It seems like we’re trying to legislate common sense,” Vick said. He raised concerns that the legislation would create new unfunded mandates for school districts. “I understand that bullying is a big problem, but do we trust the schools or do we not trust the schools.”
There is already an Idaho law that defines bullying as harming a student or his or her property or striking a reasonable fear of harm in the student. With the proposed amendment, anyone found bullying would be subject to a mandatory infraction. Local school districts would have the final say as to what the punishment would be. Potential punishment would have included suspension, getting kicked out of school, or being sent to a juvenile specialty court.
The legislation would have also required districts to provide ongoing training on bullying for school staff and offer annual reports on bullying incidents.
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