Although Florida has an anti-bullying law in place, it has done little to actually stop bullying in Florida schools. As a student in the Florida public school system for 7 years, I have seen this first hand. I attended two A-rated elementary schools, an A-rated middle school, and a high school where I was in the IB Program, all in Hillsborough County. At every school, I saw many instances of horrible bullying and was also a victim. Each of these schools has a state-required "anti-bullying policy" in place, but as far as what I have seen it is absolutely not effective.
After my freshman year of high school, my family moved to Ridgewood, New Jersey for a year. Both my middle-school aged brother and I saw a HUGE difference in the atmosphere of the schools. There was no bullying. None. It was a much more positive and safe learning enviroment. This is because New Jersey has the "toughest" anti-bullying law in the country. It is called the "Anti-bullying Bill of Rights Act" and has been in place since the 2011 school year in all New Jersey schools. Some of the main points of the bill include:
- It provides a clear, concrete definition of bullying, also adding that it includes incidents off of school-grounds.
- States that harassment, intimidation, and bullying are grounds for suspension and expulsion.
- It requires teachers and anyone who witnesses or is told of an incident of bullying to report it to the principal verbally the day of and give them a written report within two days. Any teacher or administrator that does not report an incident they know of is subject to disciplinary action. After receiving the report, the principal must tell both families of the children involved of the incident. Within one school day of the report, the school's anti-bullying specialist must begin the investigation, which must be completed within 10 days of the incident. Then, the report of the investigation is given to the superintendent within two days of the investigation being finished. He/She provides any intervention services, imposes punishment, orders counseling, or anything else they see fit. The superintendent must give the report to the school board at it's first meeting following the investigation, as well as the actions of punishment taken. At the next board meeting, they give a written decision affirming, rejecting, or modifying the superintendent's decision.
- Requires that twice a year school districts submit reports on harassment, intimidation, and bullying to the public and the Department of Education. That data is used to grade the schools and districts on how effectively safe they are. The grade is required to be posted on the school district's website.
- Requires training for all public school staff members on harassment, intimidation, and bullying in suicide prevention. Each teacher is required at least 2 hours of instruction on the subject.
- Includes public institutes of higher education. It requires them to adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, and bullying that clearly outlines disciplinary actions. It must be emailed to every student within 7 days of the start of each semester and be posted on the school's website.
- Requires each principal to appoint a staff member as the school's anti-bullying specialist. The law allows this individual to be the school's guidance counselor, psychologist, or someone with a similar role. If the school does not have one of those, the principal has to appoint another already employed staff member.
- Requires the superintendent to appoint a district anti-bullying coordinator. This person will work with school coordinators, coordinate anti-bullying prevention policies, and file the reports with the Department of Education.
- Requires each school's anti-bullying specialist to chair a school safety team that's purpose is to develop, foster, and maintain a positive school climate. The team consists of the principal, a teacher in the school, a parent of a student in the school, and others appointed by the principal. It is also required that the teams are provided with professional development oppurtunites that address other school's effective programs and approaches.
- Establishes a "Week of Respect" beginning on the first Monday of October every year. Schools are directed to have age-appropriate instruction focused on preventing harassment, intimidation, and bullying.
To read a full summary of the bill, go to this link: http://www.njea.org/njea-media/pdf/Anti-BullyingLaw_Summary.pdf?1380476045498
The current Florida law does very little in comparision to this. As of right now, the law is not harsh enough.
To learn more about the current anti-bullying law in Florida, go to this link: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=1000-1099/1006/Sections/1006.147.html
I, as a junior in high school, still see bullying every day in Florida. It is sad and pathetic that this continues because of an ineffective law. After moving back, it has become my mission to change this for the better. The "Jeffery Johnson Stand Up for All Students Act" has good intentions, but clearly does not do enough. If Florida adopts the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, it will make a difference in every single child's educational experience and life in the state.