On March 22, 2011, Senate Bill 304 (SB 304), which adds cyber-bullying and hazing to an existing anti-bullying prevention policy, was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert after passing a vote of 64-11 on Capitol Hill.
SB 304 was proposed by Utah State Sen. Ralph Okerlund (R-Monroe), who is said to have been motivated to take action after learning the sad fate of a young boy from his district who was the victim of cyber-bullying. The child was so severely harassed over the Internet and at school that he saw no other escape than to commit suicide.
What is cyber bullying?
Cyber bullying takes place online, through a cell phone, or through any other device that sends text or images. Cyber-bullies send information knowing that it will hurt, embarrass or threaten an individual. The new Utah law also considers whether or not the victim had prior knowledge of, or consented to, distributing the damaging content.
Unfortunate stories like these are occurring across the nation. A vicious cyber-bullying attack occurred in Connecticut, where police are investigating a degrading Facebook group that was created to rank about 100 high school girls on their alleged sexual activity. Some girls are as young as 14.
Hazing: What is it and why is it a problem?
Along with cyber bullying, SB 304 addresses the problem of hazing. Often, hazing is committed for the purpose of initiating an individual into a school, office, or a school-sponsored team, organization or program. It usually includes whipping, beating, and many other violent actions and is often done as a seal of approval, humiliating an individual in order to accept them as a new member of a group or association.
One example is the current investigation of six Ogden High School students who are being accused of forcing a junior high student to push gym equipment across the gymnasium floor with his nose.
Implementing the Anti-Bullying Law
With the SB 304 additions, both students and school employees will have more protection, whether they are on school property, at a school-sponsored event, on a school bus or at a bus stop. The new law also covers instances where a student might be traveling for a school-related purpose.
By September 1, 2011, the Utah State Board of Education is expected to develop guidelines and policies to include cyber bullying and hazing to their current bullying policy. Elementary, Secondary, and Charter schools will begin to gather input from the school community, including students and parents, teachers and staff members, and school boards, to begin to draft the new policy changes.
The updated policy will be posted on the Board of Education’s website this September. Schools will have one year to implement and enforce the changes, and educate and train their staff in the new policy by September 1, 2012.
No child should ever have to endure the pain of falling victim of any form of bullying. If you or a teen you know is a victim of bullying, cyber bullying or hazing, contact us! You don’t have to suffer it alone!
Parents, what input would you give about the new policy changes? Teens, how often do you see bullying in your school and what can be done to stop it?