Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bullying 101: Stand UP and Listen!

Courtesy of  Santa Clara Library

Believe it or not Florida does have an anti-bullying and harassment law that addresses public schools K-12  for both students and employees.  It is called, "The Stand Up for All Student Act," named after Jeffrey Johnston, Fla. Stat. Sect. 1006.147.  The law was enacted in 2008 on behalf on Jeffrey, who was a 15 year old student, the victim of relentless bullying both in school and online. Jeffrey committed suicide because of the bullying. Many refer to suicide by bullying as bullycide.

 A website called, states that "Jeff never retaliated with words or actions and never gave up trying to make peace." Interesting enough since the law was enacted, bullying has become rampant and the number of suicides have gone up dramatically.
 Since the death of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, media outlets, actors, experts, and law makers have taken a very serious interest in the bullying epidemic.  Although we all know bullying has been around since the dark ages, most of what we remember was the school yard bully, which was either physical fighting or malicious gossip, mostly confined within the school. But with the influx of the internet and  social networking sites there is more opportunity for kids to send their bullying message world wide. To a young child or to anyone for that matter,  that can be pretty frightening. Imagine for a child to endure stalking and harassment coupled with unwanted physical touching where the end result could be a recipe for disaster.

So what does the Florida Law prohibit and who does it protect?

As stated earlier the law is Florida Statute Section 1006.147. The law pertains to Public schools.  It is important that people understand that the law does not pertain to private schools.  That does not mean that kids in private schools can bully, stalk, harass or cyber bully another student.  I will explain what I mean in a later post.  The law prohibits bullying and harassment of any public K-12 student or employee and requires public schools to establish rules or a code of conduct to protect students and employees from these acts.  The law allows the individual school to set it's own policy as long as the school has a policy. The policy should include, ways of reporting, investigating, handling, notifying, counseling and other issues prevalent to the bullying act. [I will address those issues later on]

Under Fla. Stat. Sect. 1006.147 the law expressly defines "bullying" as the act of systematically or chronologically inflicting physical harm or emotional distress on a student.  The law also provides examples of conducts that may result in bullying:
 1.  Teasing;
 2.  Social exclusion;
 3.  Threat;
 4.  Intimidation;
 5.  Stalking;
 6.  Physical violence;
 7.  Theft;
 8.  Sexual or racial harassment;
 9.  Public humiliation; or
10.  Destruction of property.

You can also infer from above and include along with racial harassment, any harassment or bullying based on sexual orientation, religion, or disability.

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