In response to requests for assistance from state and local officials across the country following a rash of bullying-related suicides, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today distributed a memo to state leaders outlining key components of strong state bullying laws and policies. The technical assistance memo is intended to serve as a reference for state and local officials developing or revising anti-bullying legislation or policies.
“We need the commitment from everyone at the federal, state and local level to put an end to bullying,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “I hope that highlighting these best practices will help policymakers as they work to keep our children safe and learning.”
The memo, which was sent to all governors, chief state school officers and state education boards, is part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to prevent bullying in schools. In the memo, the Department compiled key components of existing anti-bullying laws from 29 states. The laws were divided into 11 categories, which ranged from listing examples of bullying behavior to specifying procedures for investigating incidents.
Several states are leaders in their bullying policies. For example, Florida law specifically defines prohibited conduct, and Kansas law clearly covers “cyberbullying.” Washington state regulations require school officials and employees to tell certain personnel about any bullying they are aware of, and Georgia prohibits retaliation against those who report incidents. And in Massachusetts, the state policy includes a provision to provide training to an extensive list of staff members to help them prevent, identify and respond to bullying.
In addition to the memo, education officials are preparing a comprehensive summary of state anti-bullying laws and conducting a study of how those laws are implemented in the hopes that the data could further guide states in crafting effective regulations.
“We have all been told that bullying has been going on in our schools forever. But we can stop it now,” Duncan said. “Strong anti-bullying policies instill a climate that this behavior will not be tolerated.”
For more on the Education Department’s efforts around bullying prevention, visit http://www.bullyinginfo.org. To read the technical assistance memo, see http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/secletter/101215.html.