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State lawmakers push for laws against bullying in schools

 Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, authored a bill that she said would make schools more accountable for reporting and addressing bullying. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Gitzel Puente)

Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, authored a bill that she said would make schools more accountable for reporting and addressing bullying. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Gitzel Puente)

A state lawmaker is pushing for a law requiring school employees to report and document bullying.

HB 2415, sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, calls for disciplinary action against school employees, from administrators to teachers and janitors, who fail to file detailed reports about bullying.

“It puts a new accountability on schools,” Yee said.

It’s one of two legislative efforts to address bullying. A Democratic representative and senator have introduced identical measures dealing with cyber-bullying and bullying related to bias.

Yee said the issue of school bullying was brought to her attention by a constituent whose child, a high school student, was assaulted on the first day of school.

“The assault was done by a student already on probation,” Yee said in a phone interview. “He was wearing a tracking device.”

She said the victim suffered “brutish” facial lacerations and blacked out during the attack, yet the school failed to contact police or emergency medical services.

Her bill would require schools to contact emergency services including police and paramedics when appropriate.

“I strongly believe we must make our schools a safe place to learn and that students should not feel threatened by other students,” Yee said.

Jennifer Loredo, an organizational consultant of governmental affairs with the Arizona Education Association, said her organization wholeheartedly supports the concept, though it has no formal position for now.

“We want children to be able to feel safe in school,” she said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, and Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, have introduced HB 2580 and SB 1549, dubbed the Arizona Safety Schools Act, which would require schools to address cyber-bullying and bias-motivated bullying.

“There’s a lot [of bullying] that goes on electronically with Facebook, MySpace, texting [and] using phones in other ways,” Hobbs said.

Sam Castañeda Holdren, spokesman for Equality Arizona, a civil rights organization representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, said his organization worked with the lawmakers to create comprehensive bill dealing with all aspects of bullying. He said he’d like to see Yee’s measure include a provision against bullying based on bias.

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