Bill Would Make Bullying a Crime in PA

HARRISBURG – State Rep. Mike O’Brien, D-Phila., has introduced legislation that would strengthen anti-bullying programs in schools and hold bullies accountable for their actions.

O’Brien’s first bill (H.B. 879) would address bullying in schools and is modeled after New Jersey’s new “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” law. It would require schools to amend existing bullying policies by January 2012 and adopt minimum standards that include representation of parents or guardians, school employees, volunteers, students, administrators and community representatives.

O’Brien said his bill is currently significant to Philadelphia in light of today’s Human Relations Commission report that concludes the Philadelphia School District is not doing enough to prevent and resolve instances of violence and bullying in its schools.

“Bullies have been around forever,” O’Brien said. “But today’s bully has a host of avenues in which to mentally torture his or her victim. Too many suicides, too many young people left with emotional scars that ruin their chance for successful and productive lives.

“While the bullying law the legislature enacted in 2008 requires schools to make policy, it sets almost no standards for ensuring the performance of their policies and provides no guidelines on implementing a successful policy. My legislation would provide the specificity and clarity needed to better protect our kids.”

O’Brien noted state budget funding for the Safe Schools program has been zeroed out over the past two years. He said schools must continue to work on successful policies while the state needs to provide more clarity to schools and enact more effective deterrents to bullying.

O’Brien’s other bill (H.B. 271) would add bullying to Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code and set penalties for violators. Bullying would be defined as the intent to harass, annoy, alarm or intimidate another individual or group of individuals; or place another individual or group of individuals in fear of personal injury or property damage.

Under the bill, first-time offenders under 18 would be charged with a summary offense. Third or subsequent offenses by people in that age group would carry the charge of a third-degree misdemeanor. People 18 and older would be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor for the first offense and a second-degree misdemeanor for third or subsequent offenses.

“Our schools can and should adopt anti-bullying programs, codes of conduct, reporting mechanisms and penalties for violators,” O’Brien said. “But they also should be given the full backing of the law when it comes to protecting our children.

“Detention, in-school suspension or expulsion will only go so far. A criminal record, or the thought of having one, can and will deter some young people, and even adults, from bullying. And if it doesn’t, bullies will finally be made to pay. It’s time for bullying to be treated like the crime that it is,” he said.

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  1. mandy says:

    It is about time that someone is stepping up to put stricter laws into action for bullies. It has become an epidemic and anymore the school tends to believe the bully over the victim. I know of parents that have removed their children from the school because of bullying and I think it is unfair. We need to start punishing the people that are doing wrong and help the kids that are the victims. I think that it is a shame that it has come to this but I totally back this law. I also think that some parents need a wake-up call as well..if their kid is being a bully and they have been told and it continues..start fining them as well. It all starts at home people.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree. When I was a kid I got bullied alot. The teachers never did anything. Instead I usually got in trouble because they only saw when I had enough and retaliated. Good to see something being done about it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    i was one of those kid that got bulied in school, the way to stop it was to have a boxing match with me and the bullie in school.this happen in the coudersport schools i hope they don,t trust that school system to set up
    policys ,have the state pass the rules also. rember what goes around comes around, this person ran for sheriff, im glad i had enough money to
    help support the winner so that bullie di not get voted in.

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