House endorses Porter bill addressing issues of bullying, discipline in Indiana schools

February 5, 2018 Gregory W. Porter

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana House members today passed legislation authored by State Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis) that is designed to improve the reporting of incidents of bullying across the state.

House Bill 1356 is designed to encourage school corporations to report incidents of bullying, remind schools that they are required to report such incidents, and emphasize they will not be penalized for honestly reporting that such things are taking place. It was inspired by local television news reports that said many school corporations are misreporting bullying incidents.

The bill asks the state Department of Education to conduct audits of school corporations to ensure that bullying incidents are being accurately reported. It also requires school corporations to submit reports containing the number of bullying incidents involving students.

“The ultimate goal here is to put an end to bullying in our schools,” Rep. Porter said. “It has become apparent that some school corporations are not providing accurate information, perhaps because officials feel that it might cause them to lose state support in funding. That is not the intent of this legislation. What we are trying to do is protect students. I want to work to create transparency in the reporting of bullying. Schools should be a place where students can learn in an atmosphere where they do not have to be afraid for their lives.”

In addition, Rep. Porter hopes the bill will help reduce the school dropout rate.

“There is no resolution for bullying when it does not get accurately reported,” Rep. Porter commented. “Kids who are being relentlessly bullied in school end up dropping out. If school corporations could report honestly on the instances of bullying, the dropout rate will decrease.”

Representatives also approved House Bill 1421, legislation co-authored by Rep. Porter that is designed to encourage that schools use disciplinary policies placing a greater emphasis on more positive solutions for handling cases apart from suspensions and expulsions.

“We would like the state to explore dealing with misbehavior through methods that are more focused on understanding and addressing the causes of this misbehavior,” Rep. Porter said. “A more positive approach can help limit referrals to law enforcement and arrests on school property, reduce the rates of expulsions and suspensions, and create safe and positive school environments. The bill enables the state to help teachers get the training needed to use this approach, and allows us to study the extent to which positive discipline and restorative justice practices are being used in our schools.”

Both measures now move to the Indiana Senate for consideration.