HB 458 Modifies provisions relating to school district antibullying policies and enacts provisions relating to youth suicide prevention and awareness

Current Bill Summary

- Prepared by Senate Research -


CCS/SS/SCS/HB 458 - This act modifies provisions relating to student safety.

SCHOOL DISTRICT ANTIBULLYING POLICIES: This act modifies the requirements for school anti-bullying policies. The definition of "bullying" is modified to include intimidation or harassment that substantially interferes with the educational performance, opportunities, or benefits of any student without exception, or that substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the school. Bullying by students is prohibited on school property, at school functions, or on school buses. Cyberbullying is defined in the act.

This act requires that antibullying policies treat all students equally.

Each school district's antibullying policy must be included in the student handbook. School district policies must contain multiple components. Each policy must contain a statement prohibiting bullying, including a definition of bullying, as described in the act. Each policy must contain a statement requiring district employees to report an instance of bullying of which he or she has firsthand knowledge, has reasonable cause to suspect that a student has been subject to bullying, or has received a report of bullying from a student. In addition, the policy must require a district employee who witnesses an incident of bullying or has received reliable information to report the incident to the district's designated individual at the school, within two school days. Each policy must contain a procedure for reporting an act of bullying, a procedure for prompt investigations, which must be initiated within one day of receiving a report. Each policy must contain a statement as to how a school will respond to a confirmed incident of bullying, as described in the act. Each policy must contain a statement prohibiting reprisal or retaliation against a person who reports an act of bullying, and include student peer-to-peer initiatives to provide accountability and policy enforcement for those found to have engaged in bullying, reprisal, or retaliation. Each policy must also contain a statement of how the policy will be made public and a process for discussing the policy with students and training employees and volunteers, as described in the act.

School district administrations must instruct their school counselors and school psychologists to educate students who are victims of bullying on techniques to overcome the negative effects of bullying, including the following: cultivating the student's self-worth and self-esteem; teaching the student to defend himself or herself assertively or effectively; helping the student develop social skills; and encouraging the student to develop an internal locus of control.

School district administrations must implement programs and other initiatives to prevent bullying, respond to such conduct so as to not stigmatize a victim, and to make resources or referrals available to victims of bullying.

Any school district may subject a student to discipline for cyberbullying. A district may discipline any student for cyberbullying to the greatest extent allowed by law. A district will have jurisdiction to prohibit cyberbullying that originates on a school's campus or a district activity when the electronic communication was made using the school's technological resources when there is a sufficient nexus to the educational environment, or the electronic communication was made on the school's campus or at a district activity using the student's own personal technological resources. The district will have jurisdiction to prohibit cyberbullying that originates off the school's campus if it was reasonably foreseeable that the electronic communication would reach the school's campus or there is a sufficient nexus between the electronic communication and the school, as described in the act. A district may also prohibit cyberbullying that occurs outside the district to the greatest extent allowed by law, as described in the act. A district may contact law enforcement and take other appropriate actions to protect students and clarify district expectations.

Each district must annually review its antibullying policy and revise as necessary.

Each district must develop a method to track any correspondence between individuals and the district regarding bullying. This correspondence will be a closed record.

Each district must report the number of confirmed reported bullying incidents in the district and each school to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Department must post this information on its website but must not release any confidential information.

This section is similar to SB 440 (2015), HB 495 (2015), SCS/HCS/HB 134 (2013), CCS/SS/SCS/HB 458 (2015), and a provision contained in SB 161 (2015).

YOUTH SUICIDE AWARENESS AND PREVENTION: Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, any licensed educator may annually complete up to two hours of training or professional development in youth suicide awareness and prevention as part of the professional development hours required for State Board of Education certification. (Section 170.047)

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must develop guidelines for training or professional development in youth suicide awareness and prevention. The Department must also develop materials that may be used for such training or professional development. (Section 170.047)

Each district must adopt a policy for youth suicide awareness and prevention by July 1, 2017. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must develop a model policy by July 1, 2016 that districts may adopt. The Department must cooperate, consult with, and seek input from organizations that have expertise in youth suicide awareness and prevention. By July 1, 2020, and at least every three years thereafter, the Department must request information and seek feedback from districts on their experience with the policy for youth suicide awareness and prevention. The Department shall review this information and may use it to adapt the department's model policy. The Department must post the information it receives from districts on its website that it deems relevant. The Department must not post any confidential information or any information that personally identifies a student or school employee. (Section 170.048)

These sections are identical to provisions contained in CCS/SCS/SB 328 (2015), SS/SCS/HB 556 (2015), HB 1293 (2015), HCS/SCS/SB 146 (2015).

MICHAEL RUFF


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