(Chicago, IL) — June 27, 2010. Before Governor Pat Quinn began his march in Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade on Sunday, Quinn signed a bill into law that aims at reducing bullying in Illinois schools, but the measure may do little to reduce bullying behavior.
“This new law helps schools protect students so they can succeed both inside and outside of the classroom,’ said Quinn, who signed the bill at the Nettlehorst School in Chicago where students were celebrating Kids’ Pride Fest.
In 2007, nearly a third of 55 million students ages 12 to 18 reported having been bullied during the school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That is an increase from 1 in 10 students in the 1990’s.
The legislation, Senate Bill 3266, expands the definition of bullying–including sexual orientation–requires gang prevention training in Illinois schools, and creates a task force to examine the causes of bullying.
The new law expands the definition of “bullying” to include any communication made through writing or electronic means such as text messaging, e-mail or social networking Web sites. Anything from race, gender, religion, a physical disability or sexual orientation can be targets for school bullying.
However, an article written in September 14, 2009 by the Associated Press—“School bullying laws give scant protection”—found state laws to be largely useless.
Laws meant to protect youngsters from playground bullies are largely ineffective, according to an Associated Press review, and several students’ recent suicides have parents and advocates calling for tougher measures.
Forty-four states expressly ban bullying, a legislative legacy of a rash of school shootings in the late ’90s, yet few if any of those measures have identified children who excessively pick on their peers, an Associated Press review has found. And few offer any method for ensuring the policies are enforced, according to data compiled by the National Council of State Legislatures.
Under the new Illinois law, each school district and private school will now be required to develop and maintain a policy on bullying that must be updated every two years. Public schools are already required to have such policies in place.
Additionally, the legislation creates the School Bullying Prevention Task Force, which will be comprised of 15 members appointed by the superintendent of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). The Task Force will investigate the causes and consequences of bullying in schools. The Task Force will develop strategies aimed at preventing bullying in schools and will submit a report by March 1, 2011.
The new law, sponsored by State Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester) and State Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Broadview), received widespread support from groups such as the Illinois African-American Commission, the ARC of Illinois, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Human Rights, Illinois State Board Education, and others.
The legislation passed through the Illinois General Assembly nearly unanimously.
The new law also requires school districts and private schools to develop plans for bullying and gang prevention. Schools will join with the state and local law enforcement agencies to educate students about conflict resolution, cultural sensitivity, personal goal setting and resisting peer pressure.
The law goes into effect immediately.
Whether it has any effect is a different question.
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