Republican state Representative Sue Allen of Town and Country is leading the state to more clearly define bullying and include intimidation, unwanted aggressive behavior, or harassment which interferes with education or school operations.
As a pediatric physical therapist, Allen has had first-hand experience when it comes to the bullying of disabled children in Missouri schools, and she’s pushed relentlessly to pass this new legislation. In fact, before the bill was finally passed, she had tried five times to succeed. She suspects her previous attempts were shot down due to how the proposal was worded. By modifying the language to focus on the behavior of bullying rather than who is being bullied, the law was finally passed.
It’s Allen’s goal the the new law encourages parents and other adults to better understand bullying and it’s impact. Armed with awareness, they can take more proactive measures to fix problems before they have a chance to escalate. Allen said, “And that’s the issue, is the parents, the students have some support in how to respond if they are being bullied, or if they see somebody being bullied.”
During the early stages of the development of this legislation, it was geared to include sexual orientation as a protected class. However, this wording was dropped prior to lawmakers giving their final stamp of approval. Another early version put focus on allowing schools more power in the development of their own procedures, but it failed to achieve the intended goal of enactment.
According to Allen, she has already heard from one school that has modified it’s anti-bullying procedures due to the new law. Beginning the school year of 2017, it will be required for teachers to take youth suicide awareness and prevention training, and the anti-bullying policies as well as the definition of cyber-bullying are now clearly stated in student handbooks across the state.