It took too long, but Missouri lawmakers and Gov. Jay Nixon have strengthened the protections afforded to students threatened by bullying.
A measure Nixon signed into law earlier this month tightens the standards for anti-bullying policies implemented by school districts. It requires:
• Districts must adopt a procedure for reporting acts of bullying.
• Districts must adopt procedures for training employees on their anti-bullying policies and discussing these policies with students.
• Districts must investigate a report of bullying within two days. They must also complete the investigation within 10 days.
• Cyber-bullying is defined, and the law makes clear any district can discipline a student for cyber-bullying.
As anticipated, lawmakers also provided for educators to receive up to two hours of training in youth suicide awareness and prevention as part of their professional development hours required for certification.
Also, school districts will be required to adopt strategies that can help identify students who are at possible risk of suicide.
“Every student should feel safe at school, and every teacher should have the resources and training needed to keep them safe,” Nixon said. “This is an important piece of legislation that can improve and save lives.”
In announcing the changes, Nixon stressed how the new law will work in partnership with 31 community mental health liaisons that been placed across the state to work with law enforcement and court personnel to connect people in behavioral health crises to treatment.
Our one lament is this law has been pushed aside by the legislature more than once in recent years — including a year ago — and is a belated reaction to a serious problem.
For some time now, it has been clear that bullying is an abusive act that elevates in seriousness with the application of social media and the cruelness it can spawn.