Governor Deval Patrick Thursday signed into legislation a bill that requires school districts, charter schools, approved private-day schools, residential schools and collaborative schools to develop bullying prevention plans that will ensure they remain safe and supportive places for the students to learn and thrive throughout the state. Bill H. 3909 also includes procedures for collecting, maintaining and reporting bullying incident data.
"This legislation is an important step toward ensuring that all young people are able to learn and thrive in our Commonwealth's schools,” said Governor Patrick in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. “With this new law, we are continuing our dedication to our teachers, parents and kids to give them the tools and protections they need so that every student has a chance to reach their full potential."
Under the legislation, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will be required to analyze collected bullying data and publish annual reports on the frequency and nature of incidents, according to the statement. Additionally, DESE will develop a survey administered to students every four years to assess overall school climates and the prevalence, nature and severity of bullying to better determine measures needed to prevent it.
The bill was sponsored by Representative Alice Peisch and Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and passed with strong bipartisan support in the Legislature.
In 2010, Governor Patrick signed landmark anti-bullying legislation to strengthen efforts in schools to keep Massachusetts students safe. The 2010 law increased efforts to educate students about bullying including regulations on student handbooks and classroom instruction; instituted new rules and expectations for reporting incidents of bullying; provided new opportunities for training for all adults in schools on how to identify, prevent and manage incidents of bullying; and enhanced efforts across state and local education, health and law enforcement agencies to build more collaboration to ensure the new efforts are effective. The law also included new reporting requirements for all school staff to fully and swiftly detail any instance of bullying or retaliation to the appropriate school official. Additionally, the measure directed the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) to establish statewide academic standards that include instruction in bullying prevention and requires schools statewide to provide age-appropriate instruction on bullying prevention.
“This new law is the next step on our path to protect children from bullying,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley. “It will better protect students who we know are most vulnerable to bullying, including our LGBTQ students and those with disabilities. It will also allow us to better track the effectiveness of our bullying programs across the Commonwealth. I applaud Governor Patrick for his commitment to combating bullying in our schools. And I also would like to thank Senate President Murray, Speaker DeLeo, co-sponsors Senator Chang-Diaz and Representative Peisch, and MassEquality and the Anti-Defamation League for their leadership on this important issue.”