Volume 16 Issue 2
By Dina Martin
With Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of two new laws aimed at the prevention of bullying, California schools have taken a step closer to providing a safe environment for all students.
The governor signed both AB 1156 by Assembly Member Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) and AB 9 (Seth’s Law) by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco).
AB 1156, sponsored by the California State PTA, requires training of school site personnel in the prevention of bullying and gives victims of bullying priority for transferring out of a school, if requested. AB 1156 encourages school districts to include policies and procedures on the prevention of bullying in their comprehensive school safety plans; authorizes alternative attendance for students who have been the victims of bullying; and provides the opportunity to develop training in the prevention of bullying.
“Educators felt that students tend to avoid victimization by staying home from school, which adversely affects their academic progress and a loss of revenue for the district,” say CTA’s legislative advocates. Students need to know that at school they will be safe from menacing elements beyond their control.
AB 9, dedicated to Seth Walsh, the 13-year-old Tehachapi student who took his life a year ago after being bullied at school, requires schools to address and act on bullying. The bill will tighten anti-bullying policies in California schools by ensuring that all schools have clear and consistent policies and clearer guidelines for teachers and administrators, and by establishing shorter timelines for investigating claims of bullying. Schools will be provided with a framework of options they may take, although the bill does not dictate to educators what they should do with bullies.
“The intention is to help make safer schools and to stop bullying when we see it,” says C. Scott Miller, co-chair of CTA’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus. “We’re looking at a whole new movement at what we are doing at school.”
Miller notes that bullying incidents go beyond the tragic incidents that have resulted in the deaths of several teen-agers.
“Those are the kids we see on TV, but bullying goes on every single day,” Miller says.
The California Endowment, which partners with CTA on several projects, praised the governor for signing the two bills. The Endowment will be dedicating time, attention and resources to working with school officials, parents, and young people to thoughtfully address bullying and responses to bullying.
“At The California Endowment, we believe that there are healthier and smarter ways for dealing with bullies that don’t create long-term problems. We need to recognize that while bullying and intolerance are indeed unacceptable, a kid who bullies may be frantically waving a red flag for help and support. He must be accepted even as his behavior is rejected,” says Tessie Guillermo, chair of The California Endowment’s board of directors.