Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent bullying and harassment in schools. The Safe Schools Improvement Act would require schools and districts that receive federal funding to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, encouraging them to implement effective prevention programs to respond to incidents of bullying and harassment.
"Bullying affects an estimated one out of every three students in America ages 12-18 years, and can have a significant impact on school engagement and academic achievement," said Senator Kirk. "I am proud to join with Senator Casey to reintroduce the Safe Schools Improvement Act to help schools prevent bullying before it starts and to provide guidance supporting proper behavior. I hope we can help solve the issue of bullying because every child deserves a safe environment, free of harassment, in which they can learn."
"Bullying and harassment affect millions of students every year," said Senator Casey. "I am re-introducing the Safe Schools Improvement Act to help ensure that every child receives a quality education that builds self-confidence. This bill is a crucial step towards ensuring that no child is afraid to go to school for fear of bullying."
"Systematically surveying students, parents, and teachers for perceptions of their school's environment and the prevalence of bullying is a first step in making schools safer," said Dr. Roger Weissberg, President of Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL). "Then it is critical to teach children social and emotional skills to prevent bullying and to address bullying when it occurs." CASEL is the nation's leading organization advancing the teaching of academic, social and emotional skills.
The Illinois Education Association (IEA) released the following statement: "This is an issue that is so important to our members, being that they are in classrooms, school buildings and on buses each day and see the toll that bullying takes. The IEA strongly believes that students have a right to a safe and orderly environment that is free from emotional harassment and bodily harm. The IEA supports initiatives that work toward ending bullying, intimidation, violence and gang activity in schools and on all school property. We are so pleased that a Senator from our state would share those concerns and work to keep our children safe."
The Safe Schools Improvement Act requires school districts receiving federal funds 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. The bill also requires states to collect information reported by school districts on incidents of bullying and harassment and report this information to the Department of Education. This data must also be readily available to the public so that parents and the local community may know what is happening in their schools.