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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

How far can Florida schools go in dealing with bullying?



It's no secret that kids use texting, social media and other digital resources to pick on others. The stories are myriad.

It's also no secret that Florida has taken a lead in battling student bullying with its comprehensive Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act (although it did take quite some time and effort to push that bill past some recalcitrant, powerful lawmakers).

But just how far can lawmakers push the anti-bullying zeal? Two of them aim to find out this session.

Republican Sen. Ellen Bodgandoff has filed SB 622, which would require schools to investigate any allegation of computer-related harassment or bullying when the computers or systems used are "within the scope" of the K-12 system. She also would slightly expand the definition of bullying to include "emotional hurt."

Democratic Rep. Dwight Bullard ups the ante further with HB 627,  which would add an entirely new definition of "cyberbullying" while also expanding the defintion of bullying to include private humiliation, emotional pain and discomfort. 

Bullard also would have schools investigate allegations of such even if the computers or systems are "accessed at a nonschool-related location" or are "not owned, leased, or used by a school district or school." The key would be "if the bullying creates a hostile environment at school for the victim, infringes on the rights of the victim at school, or materially or substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school."

He at least makes clear that school employees wouldn't have to staff non-school activities to police for such behavior.

Schools increasingly are becoming the one-stop shop for education, nursing, counseling, social work, even parenting. But enforcing laws against cyberbullying that takes place away from school too?

[Last modified: Friday, November 11, 2011 9:54am]


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