On Tuesday, the House passed HB370, which amends the bullying law that was enacted in 2010. HB370 amends the bullying law in two significant ways. Current law permits districts to include a provision in their bullying policy that gives the Superintendent discretion to waive the 48 hour parental notification requirement if the Superintendent determines that a waiver is in the best interests of a victim or a perpetrator. HB370 deletes this provision, leaving districts without the ability to waive the 48 hour notice requirement. Since the waiver can only be used if it is in the best interests of the victim or perpetrator, it is very unlikely that districts are using this provision to delay parental notification. While I agree that districts should act quickly in responding to bullying incidents, I do not support limiting a district’s ability to make decisions about what is best for their students.
HB370 also deletes a provision that defines bullying to include actions that occur outside of the school if such actions interfere with a student’s educational opportunities or substantially disrupt the operations of the school. The bill adopted by the House addresses out-of-school bullying in a different way. HB370 would require school board members and school employees to notify the principal of the school a victim attends if they become aware of a bullying or cyberbullying incident occurring off of school property. If the perpetrator attends a different school than the victim, the board member or employee would also be required to notify the perpetrator’s principal. A principal who receives a report of bullying in this manner would be required to notify parents within 48 hours of the incident. It looks like the district has satisfied its obligations once it notifies the parent(s) of an out-of-school bullying incident. Is this the best way to protect our students? Is it realistic for the district to remove itself from the situation once it has notified parents?
Now that HB370 has been adopted by the House, it will crossover to the Senate for another round of debate and discussion.