Virginia bill tackles bullying for students, teachers

Posted at 8:01 AM, Jan 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-29 09:13:04-05

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) - A bill aimed at providing a clear, legal definition of bullying in order to help prevent it from happening is making its way through the Virginia General Assembly.

The House Education Committee cleared HB1871 on Monday.

The bill defines bullying as "aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm or humiliate the victim and which is repeated over time."

Bullying is already banned in Virginia schools, but by offering a firm definition, Del. Jennifer McClellan (D - Richmond) said school districts can develop a more consistent policy for dealing with bullying.

"This bill codifes a definition of bullying that would apply to all schools," McClellan said. "A lot of new studies show not only has there been an increase in bullying, but we're starting to see the negative impact it can have on our students.

"It can affect their performance--some students even drop out because they're being bullied. It can carry over outside of the school and have really negative impacts on the community,"

The bill also requires school divisions to have anti-bullying policies in their student codes of conduct, have education for their employees on how to create a bully-free environment, and required the Board of Education to create a model anti-bullying policy for the local school divisions.

It also provides a definition for cyber bullying, and would prohibit it by both students and staff.

"The more we really started taking a look at it, the more we realized that bullying was not just a student-to-student problem but you could have teacher-to-teacher, parent-to-teacher, student-parent," McClellen said. "We thought we need to have a more holistic look at bullying."

The House is expected to vote on the proposal later this week.