The issue of school bullying deserves better than to be used as a political prop by one state legislator, but, fortunately, another appears ready to tackle the substance of it.
State Rep. Pat Smith had sponsored HB 407, which would define measures that constituted bullying and marginally increased notification and reporting requirements. Unfortunately, in its original form, the bill carried consequences that could have conflicted with free speech advocacy; for example, the bill’s language could have caused prosecution of a student arguing against the concept of same-sex marriage to another who favored it. Additionally, by assuming to come up with a complete list, it risked creating classes of individuals the bullying of whom under current law would not be covered. Finally, other than specify protected classes of individuals by both characteristics and behaviors, it did little else to beef up notification and reporting.
To deal with free speech issues, an amendment was offered that pared away the list of specified protected classes, which succeeded. Smith then voluntarily deferred it rather than proceed – even though the bill didn’t do much else to address the issue it did more clearly define behavior that constituted bullying and more amendments could have improved it further. Given that action, it’s hard not to conclude that she seemed more interested in trying to make a political statement than actually support a law that would increase the chances of preventing and prosecuting bullying.