Massachusetts lawmakers recently unanimously passed the most comprehensive anti-bullying law in the US following the suicides of Phoebe Prince, 15, from South Hadley and Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, 11, from Springfield. The new law legislates the requirements of schools to educate their staff & students about bullying and for principals to take immediate action in any case of bullying. You can read the actual law at this link: Massachusetts Anti Bullying Law
The new law defines bullying as:
“Bullying”, the repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at a victim that: (i) causes physical or emotional harm to the victim or damage to the victim’s property; (ii) places the victim in reasonable fear of harm to himself or of damage to his property; (iii) creates a hostile environment at school for the victim; (iv) infringes on the rights of the victim at school; or (v) materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school. For the purposes of this section, bullying shall include cyber-bullying.
“Cyber-bullying”, bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, which shall include, but shall not be limited to, any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo electronic or photo optical system, including, but not limited to, electronic mail, internet communications, instant messages or facsimile communications. Cyber-bullying shall also include (i) the creation of a web page or blog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person or (ii) the knowing impersonation of another person as the author of posted content or messages, if the creation or impersonation creates any of the conditions enumerated in clauses (i) to (v), inclusive, of the definition of bullying. Cyber-bullying shall also include the distribution by electronic means of a communication to more than one person or the posting of material on an electronic medium that may be accessed by one or more persons, if the distribution or posting creates any of the conditions… of the definition of bullying.
As a former victim of bullying in my own school experience I applaud the seriousness with which the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has responded to the problem of bullying in school.
I contend that guidelines for disciplinary and legal action are important but ultimately we can not legislate away hurt feelings or emotional distress caused by persons or events outside of ourselves. We can however learn effective strategies for dealing with and protecting our own feelings. We can also learn how to respond appropriately.
I particularly appreciate the clause in the new law that protects the person who “blows the whistle” from retaliation.
An effective approach to stop bullying in our schools and workplaces is to create the educational framework and tools to identify and prevent bullying immediately. It also needs to teach kids how to interpret their world in a way that builds their self esteem no matter what someone else may say or do.
It is my opinion that many more states will be creating similar anti-bullying legislation in the near future.
– Mark Shepard, Author, “Bully Free Me, Bully Free Us”
For more information on how my Bully Free Me, Bully Free Us anti bullying assembly can help educate students, teachers, administrators and parents on how to stop bullying in school please call 888-598-7709 or e-mail me at mark [at] MarkShepard.com or use the handy contact form below