The House Education Committee discussed House Bill 45 today, which adds electronic communications to the forms of bullying that must be reported by teachers, students, or volunteers in schools.
We spoke with the Kenai Peninsula School District Superintendent Dr. Steve Atwater about the bill and he said it is difficult to mandate when teachers should step in.
Dr. Atwater: “The difficulties come when it happens outside of school so the kids are acting independant of school but the resulting activity takes place in school so then you’re caught: are you allowed to discipline someone in school for something that has nothing to do with school that happened outside of school.”
Bill sponsor Rep. Mia Costello of Anchorage said it was suggested by Dimond High School 10th grader Amelia Davis who testifies to the House Education Committee that cyber bullying often goes unaddressed.
Davis: “I don’t know how you guys are seeing this but the way that I’m seeing it, I’m seeing that it’s a problem. I’m seeing all these conflicts going on, I’m seeing people getting hurt, I’ve seen what happens when people get bullied online. It’s painful to watch.”
East Anchorage Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux raised the concern that it may infringe on free speech.
Rep. LeDoux: “We actually need to be fairly careful with where we draw the line with respect to the first amendment. I mean the first amendment and freedom of speech, it allows you to be pretty mean.”
Other committee members raised questions about the underlying statute and ultimately the Education Committee held on to HB 45.