Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced new legislation to prevent bullying and harassment in schools at Northeast Middle School in Bethlehem. 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. Senator Casey will introduce this next week with Mark Kirk (R-IL) and other cosponsors.
"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."
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 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.
The Bethlehem Area School District has been proactive in addressing this topic by participating in such programs as the Anti-Defamation League's campaign, No Place for Hate®, which requires them to have school-wide activities that celebrate diversity and promote respect. The students also recently held a Rally for Peace as part of a week-long effort to promote a positive school climate at Northeast Middle School.
The Safe Schools Improvement Act has received broad support from educators, administrators and civil rights organizations, including the 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.