House Passes Improved Anti-Bullying Bill
Brighton Area Schools already have existing anti-bullying policies in place.
After much criticism over the anti-bullying bill the state Senate passed last week, the House of Representatives passed a version of its own Thursday afternoon
The bill requires all public, charter and intermediate school districts to implement the policy - much the same as the Senate bill, but without the criticized wording that exempted bullies with sincerely religious beliefs or moral convictions.
Brighton Area Schools already has an anti-bullying policy in place. Board of Education President Cheryl Leach said it was interesting to her that there would be such exceptions in those areas.
"Anti-bullying should be anti-bullying," she said.
Leach said that should an incident occur now, schools would apply the policy currently on the books.
The student handbook says actions such as teasing, name calling and spreading rumors can lead to punishments ranging from warnings up to three days in or out-of-school suspension depending on if the behavior is a first offense or third offense.
There are harsher punishments for swearing, threatening, pushing and spitting. The most severe punishments are reserved for stealing or extortion and sexual, ethnic or severe harassment or intimidation. In those circumstances, a student could be expelled and police could be notified, depending on the situation.
Michelle Franz Vincent commented on Brighton Patch's Facebook page, unhappy with the wording of the legislation.
"Even if you have a sincerely held religious belief, you shouldn't be allowed to intimidate, or mentally or physically harm others who don't agree with you," she said. "That's what bullies do. Policies should be zero tollerance. Students need to feel safe at school.
"While I feel very strongly against bullying, I don't know why there needs to be a law which tells schools they need to have a policy. Shouldn't they be willing and able to do this on their own? I can't imagine sending my child to a school which did not already have a policy in place for dealing with students who make it difficult for others to learn."
Amber Louchart, who also commented on Facebook, said she was concerned about the law not having wording to prevent teachers and school staff from bullying students.
"I think that children should go through classes that teach them about what bullying is and skills to deal with it," Louchart said. "They should role play and students can be a part of groups that offer peer mentoring or mediation for minor cases. For more severe cases, counseling, and other disciplinary action may occur."