Adam Polaski

Ohio Passes Weak Anti-Bullying Bill

Filed By Adam Polaski | January 12, 2012 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: anti-bullying, bullying, Equality Ohio, Jessica Logan Act, legislation, Ohio

Ohio.jpgOn Monday, the Ohio Senate Education Committee approved the Jessica Logan Act, an anti-bullying bill designed to encourage stronger anti-bullying training from school districts and crack down on bullying in schools.

The problem, however, is that the bill doesn't specifically delineate the real or perceived characteristics of students that are protected by the bill. Race, sexual orientation, disability, and gender identity are not listed as characteristics that are consistently bullied. Language in the bill that had previously included this information was stamped out while the bill was discussed in committee on Monday.

The approved bill is weak, establishing a general policy of "don't bully." Officially, it states:

The board of education of each city, local, exempted village, and joint vocational school district shall establish and annually review a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, or bullying. The policy shall be developed in consultation with parents, school employees, school volunteers, students, and community members.

The bill then goes onto establish a requirement that schools institute an anti-bullying, anti-harassment statement prohibiting these behaviors on school grounds or school buses, a definition of these behaviors, and a procedure for reporting such incidences.

Equality Ohio, the state LGBT organization, took issue with the removal of the language:

Equality Ohio is very disappointed that enumeration was not included in the bill. Academic studies and empirical evidence demonstrate that enumeration is critical to a strong anti-bullying policy. ... Students who attend schools with enumerated policies are harassed far less often for reasons such as their physical appearance, their sexual orientation or their gender expression; are less likely than other students to report a serious harassment problem at their school; and are 50% more likely to feel very safe at school.

Now, Equality Ohio and other organizations are pushing for the passage of a new, stand-alone bill to officially enumerate the Jessica Logan Act. Let's hope it passes so that we can actually celebrate the state's anti-bullying legislation as something worthwhile.

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