The Senate will vote next week on a bill to tighten Indiana‘s definition of bullying, and require schools to craft a policy for addressing it. The bill adds cyberbullying to the legal definition of bullying, and borrows language from workplace harassment law to separate mere teasing from actions that create “an objectively hostile environment.”
Legislators hope to eliminate any excuse for inaction by spelling out that threshold. The revised definition covers actions which interfere with a student‘s ability to learn or participate in school activities, or which create a “reasonable fear of harm” or a “substantial effect on physical and mental health.”
More than 400 parents in West Lafayette signed a petition endorsing the law after Danielle Green‘s 14-year-old daughter killed herself last month, addressing her suicide note to her fellow eighth-graders.
“I‘m saying my last goodbyes. I will miss you, but I won‘t miss all the pain and hurt you guys gave me. I didn‘t want to die; I just wanted to be saved from the pain, but nobody came. So I ended it myself.”
Danielle Green urged senators to ensure other students don‘t conclude suicide is their only way out.
Opponents charge the revisions are too broad and infringe free-speech rights.
On a 7-3 vote, the Senate Education Committee rejected an amendment which would have excluded most verbal harassment from the definition.