|Calif. Rep. Linda Sánchez (D)|
Anti-bullying policies would be required of schools receiving Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Community Act funding under a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week by California Rep. Linda Sánchez (D). The bill, which mandates anti-bullying policies covering race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, has the bipartisan support of lead cosponsors Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., along with nearly 40 others.
The Safe Schools Improvement Act, H.R. 2262, also would require states to collect and include data on harassment and bullying in their statewide assessment reporting. Current federal law tied to funding for safe schools does not focus specifically on issues of bullying or harassment.
“Schools may not always have the resources to train teachers to spot and prevent harmful bullying and this bill will allow them to use funds for proper training,” Sánchez said in a prepared statement. “Three-quarters of all school shooting incidents have been linked to bullying and harassment, and victims of bullying and harassment are more likely to be depressed or suicidal.”
This is the fourth time legislation of the same name has been introduced in the House. A similar bill – also introduced by Sánchez – failed to make it out of the Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities before the 110th session of Congress ended in 2008.
The National Safe Schools Partnership, which published federal policy recommendations in 2007 to improve student achievement by preventing bullying and harassment in schools, is pushing for passage of the bill. Partnership members include the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National PTA and GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
Other supporters of the bill include the American Library Association, the American Federation of Teachers, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and the National Council of La Raza.
A 2005 survey by GLSEN found that nearly two-thirds of middle and high school students said they had been bullied in school. However, subsequent surveys found that students at schools with comprehensive anti-bullying policies – similar to the one that would be required by the Safe Schools Improvement Act – report harassment at significantly reduced rates.
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor for consideration.