HELENA – Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau and Attorney General Steve Bullock are supporting legislation that will help make schools safer places for kids. Today, the Senate Education committee will hear Sen. Kim Gillan’s proposal, SB 141, the Schools Are For Education (SAFE) Act.
The SAFE Act establishes minimum standards for bullying policies for all school districts, including common definitions and procedures. These policies would be considered during accreditation review.
Stated Superintendent Juneau, “As adults and policy-makers, we cannot look the other way and say ‘kids will be kids.’ Excuses make us passive and indifferent. It is time we work together to put a stop to bullying in our schools.”
Bullying, harassment and intimidation are real issues affecting Montana schools. According to the 2009 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 38 percent of 7th and 8th graders and 23 percent of high school students report being bullied. Between 2007 and 2009, 1,470 Montana students were suspended for bullying. Cell phones and computers have created an entirely new avenue for targeting victims.
“Montana is one of five states in the nation that hasn’t yet enacted any related legislation,” Attorney General Steve Bullock said. “Tragically, in some states, it took the loss of a young person before this issue was addressed legislatively. Let’s not wait for a suicide or for another child to be killed on one of our school playgrounds before we address this issue here.”
Senator Gillan has been active in Billings working to address bullying in schools and introduced the SAFE Schools Act in response to concerns she’s been hearing from parents in her district and community.
Stated Sen. Gillan, “Too often, I’ve heard from parents seeking ways to handle bullying. This will give Montana’s anti-bullying efforts some teeth.”
The SAFE Act continues to allow local school districts discretion and control in implementing the policy requirements and builds on the good work already happening in Montana schools.