Published January 20 2011
North Dakota bill targets bullying: Legislation promotes awareness, policy
BISMARCK – Girls slapping, kicking, punching and insulting each other is common among students at a North Dakota elementary school, a mother told state lawmakers on Wednesday.
Brenda Lackman of Mandan was among several people who testified in favor of one of the anti-bullying bills before lawmakers this session.
“Three out of the four years, she’s experienced being slapped unprovoked and unexpectedly across her face, as well as verbal insults, as have several of her classmates,” Lackman said of her 8-year-old daughter.
“I believe that a bill like this, had it been in place, our experience would have been very different, as well as several of the other parents in the school where my daughter attends,” she said.
Lawmakers heard testimony on Senate Bill 2167, the first of the anti-bullying bills to have a hearing. The proposed legislation is designed after a similar law in Massachusetts, said Sen. Richard Marcellais, D-Belcourt, the prime sponsor of the bill.
The bill would establish a No Name Calling Day to promote awareness about bullying.
It would also require the state to create a model plan for school districts to consider when developing their own anti-bullying policies.
School districts and private schools would need to provide training about bullying prevention and intervention to school staff. The bill also defines bullying and cyberbullying and requires schools to have a plan to address prevention and intervention.
Schools would need to provide information to parents and students.
Each school district and non-public school would also need to incorporate age-appropriate instruction on bullying prevention into the curriculum of each grade.
Bullying is a serious problem across America and, if left unchecked, can create serious harm to the individuals being bullied and others, said Robert Vallie of North Dakota State University Student Government.
“For us as students of North Dakota State University, we remember our experiences with bullying and, even to this day, deal with bullying on our campus,” he said. “And, in this moment, see a wonderful opportunity to help protect the next generation of students from the pain that our student body, including myself, have felt.”
Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, bill co-sponsor, said he can remember the bullies and the students being bullied from his time in school.
“They’re still on my mind. I’m 60 years old. This happened 50 years ago,” he said. “And I suspect each and every one of you could probably identify such people that were either bullies or that were bullied.”
Although no one opposed anti-bullying legislation, the North Dakota School Boards Association favors a different anti-bullying bill.
Lobbyist Bev Nielson said the bill heard Wednesday is “lengthy” and “quite prescriptive from the state.”
The association has worked with the attorney general’s office on House Bill 1465, making sure that policies are developed locally and include parents and community, she said.
The legislative committee did not take action Wednesday. The other anti-bullying bills are expected to have hearings on Monday.
Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.