Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined this week in co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation that would help prevent bullying in schools by improving reporting standards for bullying incidents, working with schools to adopt anti-bullying codes of conduct, and defining cyber-bullying as part of schools' policies.
The Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), led by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and cosponsored by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and 16 other Senators, would require schools and districts that receive designated federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including conduct based on a student's actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion.
"Learning in a safe environment is every student's right," Senator Cantwell said."With social media and text messaging being such an integral part of students' lives, it is vital that we have 21st century solutions to bullying. This legislation will address the issues of bullying and harassment by putting policies in place that will further protect our children, so they can continue to excel in school without fear of discrimination."
The Safe Schools Improvement Act was introduced last Tuesday, and yesterday, President Obama held the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention with a strong message: "If there's one goal of this conference, it's to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It's not."
The Safe Schools Improvement Act would ensure that schools and school districts implement effective prevention programs to help prevent and better respond to incidences of bullying and harassment. The bill would also require states to report data on incidences of bullying and harassment to the Department of Education.
Additional cosponsors of the Safe Schools Improvement Act include Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), John Kerry (D-MA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
The Safe Schools Improvement Act has broad support from educators, administrators and civil rights organizations, including Equal Rights Washington, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American School Health Association, National Association of School Psychologists, National Education Association, National Parent Teacher Association, American Association of University Women, Asian American Justice Center, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Human Rights Campaign and the National Council of La Raza.