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Bullying laws hit roadblocks in nine states.

Five years after a fatal shooting spree at Colorado s Columbine High School shocked the nation, 17 states have enacted laws to combat bullying in their public schools. But costs of enforcement and the intrusion of sensitive issues like students' sexual orientation are causing other states to step back.

Ten state legislatures considered bullying bills this year but only one measure passed--in Maryland--and the chances are "50-50" that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, .11" will sign it, reports Finessa Ferrell, a research analyst at the National Conference of State. Legislatures.

Some legislatures balk because rigorous requirements in bills to report bullying incidents are considered too costly or otherwise "burdensome" for school districts to implement, Ferrell says. Other state lawmakers, already struggling with gay marriage issues, don't want to consider sexual orientation in defining what constitutes bullying, Ferrell adds.

The Columbine incident in 1999, hi which two students shot and killed 12 other students and a teacher before killing themselves, kicked off a rush by states to enact bullying laws, says Jennifer Dounay, a policy analyst at the Denver-based Education Commission of the States.

The Colorado Bullying Prevention Law, one of the first, requires school districts to include specific policies in their conduct and discipline codes concerning bullying prevention and education. "It is working well. We haven't had any major issues," says Gary Sibigtroth, Colorado assistant education commissioner.

Other states have adopted tougher measures. Connecticut's law, for example, requires schools to keep records of bullying incidents and make them available to the public.

Even without state laws, an unknown number of state agencies and local school districts have acted on their own. The Delaware Department of Education, for example, requires that bullying incidents on school grounds be reported to the department within five days.

Dounay acknowledges that "there really isn't any hard proof" that state bullying laws are effective. She suggests, however, that they at least "bring attention to an area that might otherwise be swept under the rug."
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Title Annotation:Security News
Author:Dessoff, Alan
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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