New Bullying Laws in Arizona

For some children, going to school is agonizing. The problem is not the schoolwork, but the school bullies. Bullying is certainly not a new phenomenon. For as long as there have been children or teens interacting, there has been bullying. But that was all before Columbine and the tragedy of two disgruntled students, overcome with rage, as well as having deep-seated emotional problems, allegedly believing themselves to be bullied and not part of the clique at school, picked up shotguns and rifles and went on a shooting rampage, killing 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves. Columbine and other school shootings that have resulted in critical injuries or deaths have put a whole new spin on the issue of bullying. The tragic school violence in the last five years has forced parents, educators, government officials, and social-service organizations to place a greater emphasis on the friendships of elementary, middle, and high school youths. The bullying that has always plagued the school years can no longer be dismissed by saying, “Kids will be kids.” Now bullying is seen as the reason behind many instances of school violence because it can produce a completely inappropriate, unacceptable over-reaction from the alleged victim of the bullying. The experiences of the last few years with school violence in middle-class suburban communities has emphasized that all children, their parents, and educators have to be concerned with deviance and violence – not just in inner-city neighborhoods, where gang violence had been perceived as more likely and prevalent. If violence, the presence of weapons, drugs or illegal behavior is suspected, a parent or educator has the duty to find out more information and take the necessary action if intervention can prevent tragedies.

Unless the situation is serious enough that your child’s safety, life, liberty, or health, or that of the school or community is at risk, you may want to let your child work through a friendship choice that fosters your disapproval. Friendship enables your child or teen to explore a far wider range of personalities and sensibilities than in her family of origin. Furthermore, by imposing your friendship choices on your child without a good enough reason, you are preventing your offspring from acquiring the first-hand experience of working through a relationship from its beginning and, if she decides to end it, to its ending, including how she handles the ending and how it makes her feel. If drastic measures are essential because your child or teen has befriended someone who puts him in immediate danger, you may have to take a more active role in resolving the situation. Staying involved and aware of what is going on with your children and teens, without being so over-involved that you prohibit your children from developing their own secure sense of self, is a key step in reducing the tragedies that have occurred throughout the United States in recent years, as well as in other parts of the world.

A school bully can be defined as:
– Refusal (not inability) to think rationally about themselves and others;
– Small scale Terrorist, with behavior mostly taking place during school time;
– Justifies terrorist activities towards his/her targets or victims with self psychological excuses (“I want to appear tough and in control”);
– Enjoys enforcing power on others and causing extreme fear;
– Over-bearing person who tyrannizes the non-violent and physically less strong;
– To rule by intimidation, terror;
– Threatens or acts violence on others;
Calls an assault a “fight,” “disagreement” or “justice.”

His/her entire success at bullying is predicted upon arrogant disregard to simple decency, and a willingness to brutalize an innocent victim simply because the bully is bigger and stronger and others are afraid to intervene.

Kate Cohen-Posey, author of How to Handle Bullies, Teasers, and Other Meanies, suggests three main strategies for dealing with bullies:

1. Turning Insults into Compliments. Ignore the bully’s words and pretend he has said something nice. If you can’t think of anything else to say, you can always say, “Thank you.”
2. Asking Questions. Bullies and pests don’t really think. They ask out of habit. Questions make people think.
3. Agreeing. Bullies expect people to disagree with them. When someone agrees, they are surprised.

We must require schools to identify and deal with the pervasive and pernicious issue of bullying . Our schools/school districts are going to have to change their ways and create new procedures that prohibit all forms of bullying. The rules must include a confidential process for students to report harassment. Teachers and school staff must report suspected bullying, and there has to be a formal process for investigating those claims. The schools/school districts must be equipped to deal proactively with abating, preventing and confronting violence.

Currently, numerous states have statewide, anti-bullying laws.

Arizona has a new anti-bullying law. On April 20, 2005, Arizona’s Governor, Janet Napolitano, signed HB2388 – an improved revision of HB2368 – regarding school policies; pupils; bullying – a law requiring school districts to have a written plan to prevent harassment and intimidation. It directs and requires school district governing boards to adopt, prescribe and enforce policies and procedures to prohibit pupils from harassing, intimidating and bullying other pupils on school grounds, on school property, on school buses, at school bus stops and at school sponsored events and activities.

Originally, statute allowed school teachers to send pupils to the principal’s office to maintain effective discipline in the classroom. Teachers could remove students from the classroom if a pupil’s behavior seriously affected the ability of the teacher to communicate effectively with students in the classroom or the ability of students to learn.

Additionally, statute provided that every public educational institution in the state must adopt, post and enforce a hazing prevention policy. The hazing prevention policy must be printed in every student handbook for distribution to parents and students. Hazing is currently defined as any intentional, knowing or reckless act committed by a student, whether individually or in concert with other persons, against another student, and in which both of the following apply: (a) The act was committed in connection with an initiation into, an affiliation with or the maintenance of membership in any organization that is affiliated with an educational institution. (b) The act contributes to a substantial risk of potential physical injury, mental harm or degradation or causes physical injury, mental harm or personal degradation.

The new provisions require that the procedures must contain the following:

– A confidential process that allows pupils to report incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying to school officials.
– A procedure for the parents or guardians of pupils to submit written reports concerning harassment, intimidation or bullying to school officials.
– A requirement that school district employees report suspected harassment, intimidation or bullying.
– A formal process for the documentation and investigation of reported incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying.
– A formal process for an investigation of suspected incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying.
– Disciplinary procedures for students admitting to, or who are found guilty of, committing harassment, intimidation or bullying.
– A procedure that provides consequences for submitting false reports of harassment, intimidation or bullying.
– Adds the school district and school district employees to those groups that are immune from civil liability for the consequences of adoption and implementation of policies and procedures regarding school district governing board requirements under Section 15-341, subsection A and the discretionary powers of school district governing boards under Section 15-342, unless guilty of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
– Makes technical and conforming changes.

This bullying law is a start. The Government’s primary purpose for existence is for the protection of its innocent citizens. Remember your bully as a child.

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