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Quinn expected to sign anti-bullying proposals

Gov. PQuinn

Gov. Pat Quinn

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Updated: July 21, 2014 3:32PM



A skyrocketing youth suicide rate and increasing school shootings are among the motivations for landmark anti-bullying legislation Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign as early as next week.

One of two measures would broaden a school’s authority to deal with bullying even if it happens off school grounds. The Internet and social media are to blame for cyber bullying that students often post from home, said state Rep. Laura Fine, D-Glenview, who sponsored House Bill 4207. Previously, schools could not address most cyber bullying.

“Bullying affects people not only at the time but also later in life,” Fine said. “I think this will untie (the schools’) hands so to speak.”

Another plan, House Bill 5707, would require schools to follow strict guidelines in documenting and responding to each reported incident.

This measure amends an existing law that merely requires schools to have a publicized bullying policy. Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, the bill’s sponsor, said many schools have policies in name only but do little or nothing to end the problem. Cassidy said many victims she spoke with shared the feeling that nobody listened to them.

“Until we have better data collection, we won’t know the scope of the problem,” Cassidy said. “All we have is anecdotal information.”

The plan also would require schools to investigate every reported incident, provide timelines for responding and contacting parents of all students involved. Since students who are the aggressors tend to have problems in other areas of their lives as well, the legislation is written to help solve — not just punish — the problem, Cassidy said.

“We have a responsibility to our kids, and we have a responsibility to keep them safe at school,” Cassidy said.

Fine said HB4207 does not require schools to monitor outside activity, only to have more authority to handle incidents when they are reported to schools. In a case where an incident does not fall within a school’s purview, the bill also allows school officials to direct families where to go for help.

“All Illinois students deserve to go to a school where they feel welcome and safe,” Quinn said in a statement. “These bills require school districts to have policies in place to prevent bullying, and thoroughly investigate when it happens. By requiring schools to shine a light on the problem and come up with solutions, we will make great strides to eliminate bullying from our classrooms. I look forward to signing these bills to increase safety and tolerance in our schools.”

“If this can help one child, save one life, then we’re moving in the right direction,” Fine said.



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