INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers are moving forward with a bill that would require schools to investigate all reports of bullying and to notify parents of the students involved.
Under House Bill 1483, students could be transferred to other schools in severe cases.
The bill’s author, State Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary), said he has been troubled by the rising suicide rates among teenagers nationwide.
“Students feel like there’s no way out,” Smith said.
Smith said he wants to strengthen the state’s laws regarding bullying after hearing stories from boys he mentors.
“They’re concerned about the lack of response when they share a situation,” Smith said. “And then when they decide to take it in their own hands, then they’re in trouble.”
Smith has proposed a bill for several years that received a committee hearing for the first time this session. It would require schools to investigate all reports of bullying.
Parents of the victim must be notified within three business days of the report and parents of the alleged bully within five business days.
If the report is severe and found to be true, the victim or the bully can be transferred to another school in the district at the victim’s request.
Smith said he believes that would be a strong deterrent.
“If you do it, you’re going to get kicked out of school, you’re leaving your friends,” Smith said.
Both the Indiana PTA and the Indiana State Teachers Association testified in support of the bill in committee.
Some school officials say they’re also supportive.
“I think it’s important for parents to understand that they are part of the solution,” said Mike Johnson, director of school safety for Hamilton Southeastern Schools.
Johnson said he supports several aspects of the bill, adding that his district meets some of its requirements already. He suggests lawmakers include additional remedies in the legislation aside from a student changing schools.
“You may deal with schedules being adjusted, you may deal with just some counseling,” Johnson said.
“Sometimes it’s not as easy as just plugging them into another building,” he added. “Because now you have the whole issue of transportation.”
The bill passed in the House Monday on a 92-1 vote. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.