By Pamela Henney, Legislative and UN Liaison
The cases are serious and shocking – each one unique. What are these bullies thinking? How could they ever treat another human being so horrifically? You know the cases. Children as young as 8 years old committing suicide after being bullied at school. Even instructors, volunteers, administrators and more have been victims of bullying by students in their charge.
Cincinnati, Ohio, January 2017: 8-year-old Gabriel Taye was bullied at school being knocked unconscious by a third-grade classmate in the doorway to a bathroom. Taye lay unconscious for nearly 8 minutes while other students continued to kick, poke, and step on him before help arrived. Two days after the incident, the third-grader took his own life.1
Much controversy surrounds the young Ohioan’s case, one of the youngest victims of bullying incited suicide in the country. Many issues with this incident have been called into question with allegations being currently investigated.1
Yes, Ohio currently has a bullying and hazing law for grades K-12. Yes, according to the Ohio State Bar Association and the Ohio Department of Education, are requiring school districts to have additional policies in place for documentation of incidents, reporting of incidents to school officials and specifying penalties for offenders – as well as a policy regarding false accusations.
However, on Sept. 26, House Bill 360 was introduced in the Ohio Statehouse revising the current bullying and hazing law. On Oct. 10, this bill was sent to the Education and Career Readiness Committee for review. This new bill amends current sections of the Ohio Revised Code creating the Ohio Anti-Bullying and Hazing Act.
Under the amended provisions, documentation and reporting become more rigorous. District files must be kept verifying parental contact regarding the incident. Additionally, policies and documentation procedures must also cover students guilty of retaliating against students who report a bullying, hazing, or harassment incident. The board must review the policy once every three years.
Not only does HB 360 address the documentation and reporting regulations but also the school districts required suspension, expulsion, and counseling policies. A first offense would earn a student 10 days in suspension, while a second offense would expel a student for up to 182 days, which could impact the next school year as well. Counseling will be offered on a voluntary basis for the victim, and required for the perpetrator. If the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the perpetrator do not give permission to undergo counseling, the child may not return to school. An appeals process is included in the revision to the law.
Students of course can continue their work while in suspension, but they will also have an additional requirement: Municipal Court Mandated Community Service. In fact, when a student is either suspended or expelled the district must report that to the municipal court which will have three days to act. The court action, too, is very specific. The court representative, the child, the child’s parent(s) or guardian, and the school district must define a community service plan to be served during the time of the child’s suspension or expulsion. Additionally, the court penalty increases to a second-degree misdemeanor, which could potentially include a 90-day jail sentence and $750 fine.
Finally, the revisions to Ohio’s bullying and harassment law are not only about the student victims and their bullies. The new guidelines would also require similar policies be established for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade who bully or harass their teachers, other faculty, administrators, district employees, consultants, and volunteers.
Follow HB 360 at the Ohio Statehouse 132nd Ohio General Assembly website, including full text of the bill, committee notes and recommendations, and analyses from both sides of the aisle at: Ohio House Bill 360 https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-status?id=GA132-HB-360
1 Stelloh, Tim. “Family of Ohio Boy Who Commits Suicide After Bullying Attack Sues School.” NBC News, 7 August 2017, NBCNews.com.