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This bill would modify the existing definition of bullying and a new definition for cyberbullying. SB 179 would also mandate that public and private schools adopt policies relating to cyberbullying and include a provision that would require the use of anonymous reporting. Additionally, schools would be granted the ability to expel or place students in a disciplinary alternative education program for certain bullying behavior.
This bill also provides that a person commits an offense if the person directs multiple written, oral, or electronic communication toward a child in a manner that is reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend the child, with the intent that the child commit suicide or engage in conduct causing serious bodily injury to the child.
SB 179 would also require the reporting of potential bullying offenses to local law enforcement.
The issue of bullying is an emotional and serious issue. Because it deals with minors, this is something that must be addressed with the utmost care and sensitivity. We also must point out that the issue of bullying is one that reflects a deeper issue that cannot be addressed by government, and that is the moral obligations of parents to teach their children the difference between right and wrong.
Though the intention of this bill is admirable, it is one that is likely to lead to more problems than it is benefits. Instead of adding criminal and statewide penalties imposed on minors which violates our principle of limited government and to a degree our principle of personal responsibility, a better approach would be to empower the individual school districts to better engage with parents and make policy as they see fit to address the issue. The only way this issue will be solved is through greater involvement of parents, not by effectively criminalizing children.
For these reasons, we oppose SB 179.