Anti-bullying Bill: Protecting Students/Protecting Rights
BILLAmending Tennessee Code on School Bullying Policies Note: This is a previously filed version of the anti-bullying legislation. The bill is being re-written due to additional considerations and other changes made to the state’s anti-bullying law subsequent to it being filed. A new or amended version will be filed shortly. Read the Bill: Full Text: Senate Bill 0760House Bill 1153
Sponsor(s): Sen. Jim Tracy in the Senate; Rep. Vance Dennis in the House
Senate: Withdrawn on 01/26/2012.
House: Assigned to a subcommittee of the Education Committee on 02/23/2011.
Tennessee law contains several provisions designed to prevent bullying in schools. These provisions define what constitutes bullying; require school districts to adopt policies prohibiting bullying; and encourage districts to implement prevention programs. However, some provisions as well as current district policies can lead to: (1) some students receiving less protection from bullying than other students; (2) students being prevented from expressing unpopular or religiously-based viewpoints; and (3) a district implementing an anti-bullying program that promotes a political agenda. Further, while state law defines bullying, it currently requires districts to also define bullying in their policy, leading to widely varying definitions.
Purpose of the Act
The Act provides increased protection from bullying for all students by properly placing the focus on the conduct of the bully rather than on certain categories of students. It also clarifies state law to make it clear that districts cannot create their own definitions of bullying and that anti-bullying policies cannot be used to suppress unpopular or religiously-based speech protected by the First Amendment. Finally, it prevents anti-bullying programs that promote a political agenda.
Student bullying is a widespread, serious problem that needs to be firmly addressed. The answer is not, however, to bar unpopular or faith-based viewpoints that are expressed respectfully, or protect certain groups of students at the expense of other students. The goal must be to best protect all students from all bullies, while at the same time encouraging the open, honest, and respectful expression of different viewpoints. It is at such times that the educational process achieves one of its greatest purposes.
This bill would create a uniform definition of “bullying,” make clear that bullying policies cannot be used to thwart First Amendment rights, and that educational programs should not be used for advancing a political agenda. Furthermore, the bill protects all students by focusing on the conduct of the bully rather than the characteristics of the victim.