Please join Payton’s Project in urging Virginia legislators to pass “Payton’s Law,” a series of measures to strengthen current anti-bullying law to offer better protections and improved resources. We also plan to push for improved legislation in every state and at the Federal level. Click here to sign the petition in support of this life-saving legislation.
Bullying Law Additions – Additions to House Bill 1624, House Bill 744
- Bullying or harassing behavior includes, but is not limited to, acts reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, cognitive, physical, developmental, or sensory impairment, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.
- Bullying and Cyber-Bullying Reporting.
- Such policy must include: A step- by- step procedure for a teacher or other school employee, student, parent, guardian, or other person who has supervision of a student, either anonymously or in such person’s name, at such person’s option, to report or otherwise provide information on bullying or cyberbullying activity that includes a statement prohibiting retaliation following a report of bullying and/or cyberbullying.
- b. Location of incident reporting should not be limited to incidents that occur only on school grounds but must include all school sponsored events, athletic competitions, on school bus or school related transportation, at bus stops and in cyberspace.
- For school system employees, there must be a mandatory report filed for all bullying and cyberbullying incidents. When a child experiences cyberbullying there must be an additional report made to the proper law enforcement authorities.
- d. These reports must become part of the student’s permanent school record and will follow student from kindergarten through high school graduation and be reported to the County and Virginia Department of Education for collection and consolidation of school system/individual school reporting for the purpose of accountability.
- Consolidated reports, must not include the details such as names of the victim or aggressor/aggressors, and must be made public record for the residents of Virginia to view.
- Consolidated reports must show the type of incident, either bullying or cyberbullying, and must show the Consequences and Remediation activities for each incident.
- Upon receipt of such a report, the school principal or a designee must promptly, within 5 school calendar days, conduct an investigation. If a school administrator or a designee determines that bullying or retaliation has occurred, the school administrator or designee must (1) notify the local law enforcement agency if the school administrator or designee believes that criminal charges may be pursued against a perpetrator; (2) take appropriate disciplinary action; notify the parents or guardians of a perpetrator; and notify the parents or guardians of the victim, and (3) to the extent consistent with state and federal law, notify them of the action taken to prevent any further acts of bullying or retaliation.4. Written Records
- Include a procedure for maintaining written records of all incidents of bullying or cyberbullying and their resolution. These records must be kept by the school system for as long as the bully and the bullied are of school age or up to age 22 if no graduation has occurred.
- Mandatory Training and Education Plan –
- The plan must include a provision for yearly ongoing professional development for mental health training to assist all full-time and part-time school personnel including coaches, substitute teachers and temporary employees. This three-hour minimum training (either online or in class) must include education on preventing, identifying, and responding to bullying incidents and on suicide awareness and prevention.
Suggested materials for this training must include information from the National Council of Behavioral Health. School personnel include all people working in the schools.
- Mandatory Consequences and Remediation Practices
- Include a progressive step- by- step procedure that must begin with, but not limited to (additional consequences that may be determined based on the severity of the incident), for the aggressor/aggressors in the bullying activity to take part in Restorative Justice counseling and/or Mental Health counseling as part of the consequences from the incident/incidents. Each additional incident that the aggressor/aggressors must include additional consequences such as “Short-term suspension,” “Long-term suspension,” or “Expulsion.”
- It must be mandatory that students be made aware of this new Anti-Bullying school policy at the beginning of each school year and the consequences if they are caught bullying.
- b. Include a procedure for the victim in the bullying activity to take part in Mental Health counseling as part of the remediation from the incident/inciden
- Counseling Services
- Include a provision that requires the separation of the current high school and middle school counseling departments into a minimum of two (2) separate counseling departments, one (1) for Academic counseling and one (1) for Mental Health counseling. There are different skill sets between these activities and both roles are vital to the success of our youth.
- b. Reassign the Mental Health Counselors, School Nurses, Social Workers, Roll Counselors, and Psychologists from being School System employees and establish these employee roles as being a Virginia Department of Health and Human Services requirement.
- Creates a separation of responsibilities of the school systems that should be focused on the education of our youth.
- Include a provision that establishes a Mental Health Counselor to student ratio that cannot exceed 1 counselor for every 150 students, ideally this ratio should be about 1 counselor to every 75 students.
- d. Include a provision that includes a five (5) one-on-one session requirement that must be completed between the Mental Health Counselor and the student before the student can be referred to outside or private counseling servic
- Additionally establish a requirement that the parents are provided, through postal mail or email, a list of local outside or private counseling services once the student begins the Mental Health Counseling and that this list is posted in the public area of each school’s Administrative Office for accessibility of students, parents or guardians.
- 1. List must include those that accept a sliding fee scale and Medicare
- 2. List must include the multi-lingual options
- Include a provision that each school must establish a Peer Mediation Program such as Payton’s Peers or equivalent.
- Peer Mediation Program must provide support for those suffering from bullying behavior. Allow students from the elementary, secondary, high school and collegiate levels to share thoughts and emotions in a cross-age forum that focuses on student-led strength and sustenance, on a minimum of a bimonthly basis.
- Each meeting must encourage an opportunity for members to share past or current experiences with bullying behavior in a supportive, non-judgmental environment.
iii. Each meeting must specifically addresses a topic related to bullying behavior.
- 1. A topic might address resilience through coping mechanisms or foster an open discussion on ways to improve school climate and diminish bullying behavior
Current Bullying Law Modifications – HB 1871, HB 1187, SB951
- 1. Code 22.1-276.01. Definitions
- Need to better define “Who” determines the “Real” or “Perceived” power imbalance when an incident occurs, the victim should be the determining individual as they are the ones that are experiencing the bullying. The definition below leaves too much ambiguity and does not protect the victim.
“Bullying” means any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate the victim; involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the aggressor or aggressors and victim; and is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma. “Bullying” includes cyber bullying. “Bullying” does not include ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict.
- 2. “Shall” to “Must”
- The current Virginia Anti-Bullying Laws contain the word “Shall” versus using the word
“Must.” It may have been the intent of the Virginia Legislation for the word “Shall” to mean that each school system and the Virginia Department of Education “Has the duty to” but this provides potential gaps in implementation and follow through. The word “Must” will close these potential gaps and insert a firm “Are required to” for the implementation and follow through with policies, consequences and remediation. This step will also establish accountability that each school board must strictly abide by these policies and procedures.
- Example –
- 22.1-291.4. Bullying prohibited.
Each school board shall implement, by July 1, 2014, policies and procedures to educate school board employees about bullying, as defined in § 22.1-276.01, and the need to create a bully-free environment.