Legislation aimed at better protecting students from bullying passed the Indiana Senate on Wednesday.
The legislation more clearly and broadly defines bullying as anything that creates a hostile learning environment for a student. It also requires each public school to develop bullying prevention programs, report incidents of bullying to the Department of Education and provide training to teachers on the best ways to address bullying.
Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon), the bill’s sponsor, says the legislation also addresses online bullying, even if it takes place out of school.
“So student A is harassing online student B. Under current law, there’s not much the school can do,” he says. “If it’s appropriate for those two students to be separated when they come back to school on Monday, we would want the school to have the tools to separate them, as appropriate.”
Some Republicans in both committee and on the floor tried to amend the bill, changing the definition of bullying to only include physical harassment. Those attempts failed, but Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury) says his concerns about the bill still remain.
“If some of these type of activities are taking place in schools, they should be stopping that to begin with,” he says. “I’m not sure we need an additional law now to tell them they have to do that. That’s what schools should be doing currently, and I don’t think they need to be threatened with a lawsuit now because it’s in code this way.”
The House can now accept minor technical changes made by the Senate or take the bill to conference committee to resolve its differences with the Senate version.