Oregon passes anti-bullying legislation

The Oregon House today passed legislation to make schools safer for Oregon students who may be victims of ,bullying. HB 2599 strengthens Oregon’s existing anti-bullying law by establishing a more uniform statewide anti-bullying and anti-harassment policy. School districts throughout the state will be required to designate a point person on bullying and create a transparent process so both students and parents know where to turn for help when bullying occurs.

“Every student deserves to be safe at school," said State Rep. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis/Philomath), chair of the House Education Committee. "Unfortunately, too many Oregon kids are too scared to ask for help because they don't know who they can trust to take them seriously. HB 2599 ensures every Oregon school will have a designated point person for bullying cases. This is a person responsible for responding to bullying reports and trained to handle these situations appropriately."

Current Oregon law requires school districts to adopt their own policies prohibiting bullying. HB 2599 clarifies the definition of bullying, requires clear school district-wide notice and investigation procedures, and calls on school districts to establish a staff member at each school to deal with bullying.

The bill passed 50-9 with broad bipartisan support and was carried by State Rep. John Huffman (R-John Day).

“We need to make sure every student in Oregon is protected from inappropriate action that can cause deep and lasting trauma in our children,” said Huffman. “This is one of those times our local school districts need some guidance from this body to ensure that all districts treat all children equally.”

Speaker Dave Hunt (D-Clackamas) said there is a growing realization that the psychological impacts of bullying can lead to serious problems.

“Across the state we have heard of numerous instances where bullying has harmed or even destroyed the experience of children in our schools. This bill places some clear guidelines for school districts to follow to ensure we are doing everything we can to end bullying in our schools,” said Hunt.

Gelser said a key provision was the establishment of a person in each school charged with dealing specifically with bullying allegations.

“When children do not know who they can talk to about being bullied, they often fail to seek help,” said Gelser. “The new statewide policy will ensure every school has one person responsible for responding to bullying reports and trained to handle harassment situations. Both kids and parents will know who to approach if they feel endangered.”

Though legislation passed in 2001 increased protection for Oregon students against bullying, the Oregon Healthy Teens Survey reported that Oregon schools still need improvement. In 2008, 41 percent of eighth graders in Oregon reported they have been harassed at school in the past 30 days. Prolonged bullying can detrimentally affect children and young adults and lead to increased depression, anxiety, behavior problems, substance abuse and even suicide attempts.

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