But not everyone is on board.
One out of every five students has experienced bullying and some lawmakers believe that’s way too many. That’s why Pennsylvania State Rep. Frank Burns (D) is working on three separate proposals to combat school bullying.
One of those bills is creating some provocative conversations online.
In a March 12 press release, Burns announced plans to introduce legislation that could make parents of bullies financially accountable.
Burns’ proposed laws say the first time a kid bullies a fellow student, the school will take disciplinary action as well as notify the parents.
The second time the child is caught bullying, his or her parents will be required to attend a class on bullying and a conference on bullying resolution.
If the child continues to target other students, a judge could order the parents to pay a $500 fine, which would increase to $750 for every subsequent incident.
Bullying, Burns believes, is often underreported. In a statement on his website, he explains that, without consequences, bullying “can escalate quickly from taunts and hurtful online posts” to “physical assaults and — in worst cases — suicide.”
“Holding students, parents and officials at all levels accountable is the only way to put an end to this scourge,” he says.
But not everyone agrees. A post on debate.org, a platform for people to discuss political issues, indicates that people are split almost exactly down the middle on this idea. Some people point out that without being held accountable for their own actions, children might take the wrong message away from this experience.
Others argue that some children become bullies because they are bullied (or abused) by their parents, and that this method of accountability won’t do anything to stop the cycle.
While Burns’ first piece of proposed legislation puts the onus on parents, the other two seek to make improvements from within the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
One bill mandates that the agency create an anonymous system where people can report bullying incidents. The last bill in the trio requires schools to report all bullying-related issues to the Office of Safe Schools, a government-run initiative, in order to gather real-time data for further study.
Burns’ comprehensive approach to bullying reform has bipartisan support: 16 Democrats and 9 Republicans sponsored the three bills.
But some worry that a provision punishing educators who fail to report incidents of bullying could accidentally punish students as well.
Advocates point out that a lot of students who are bullied in school are LGBTQ and the majority of them haven’t yet come out to their parents.
By forcing educators to report all instances of bullying to parents, advocates worry that teachers and administrators could unintentionally out bullied children to parents who may not be supportive. This essentially jeopardizes the kids’ safety and violates their privacy.
The conversation around bullying is nuanced, and unlikely to be solved any time soon. Even so, it’s encouraging to see legislators looking for creative solutions to the problem – even if those solutions need a little bit of tweaking.