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Smith anti-bullying legislation heads to governor’s desk

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The conference committee report of a bill authored by State Rep. Vernon G. Smith (D-Gary) today was adopted by both chambers and now heads to the Governor's desk.

House Bill 1483 changes reporting requirements for schools in cases of bullying, mandating that school administrators must notify the parents of the child being bullied and the parents of the perpetrator within a certain timeframe. The bill also lays out mandates for the documentation of bullying incidents, close monitoring of students involved in incidents of bullying, allowing parents to review materials used in bullying prevention or suicide prevention programs, and mandates that the safety of the victim must be prioritized with any case of bullying being investigated. In cases of severe bullying that doesn't end after notification and other mediation, the victim has the option of either moving to a new school within the district or having the perpetrator moved to another school.

Smith offered the following statement following the adoption of the conference committee report:

“As an educator and a mentor to young people in my district, it's heartbreaking to hear about the things children go through in school. Oftentimes, parents don't know their child is being bullied, or that their child is a bully. This legislation will change that by requiring schools to contact both sets of parents, and will hopefully lead to conversations within families that will stop the bullying. In the event bullying continues, this bill also provides avenues for victims or perpetrators to be separated. This bill is the culmination of five years of work on my part, and I'm glad to see that it's finally come to fruition.

“Too often, young people take their own lives because they're being bullied. They feel like there's no escape. The most recent example of this tragedy is Terry Bader III, whom this bill is named for. There is nothing we can do bring this young man back or ease the pain his family feels in his absence, but my hope is that this legislation will prevent more children from feeling suicide is their only way out.

“I'd like to thank my colleagues in the House of Representatives and the Senate for supporting this legislation that will help so many children. While we celebrate this achievement for Indiana school and students, I'd also like to extend my sincere condolences to the family of Terry Badger III and all families grappling with the loss of a child to suicide. This unthinkable tragedy is a reminder to us all that bullying is something we need to take seriously. I hope this bill is the beginning of changing the climate and culture in our schools and make a difference in the lives of young people, and that it will help reduce the number of children who die by suicide in our state.”

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