Oregon: Anti-Bullying Bill Passes House Education Committee
March 11, 2009 by Bryan
Oregon’s House Education Committee today approved a proposal to strengthen Oregon’s anti-bullying law. In a 9 to 1 bipartisan vote, the Committee approved the bill and sent it to the House for a vote.
The Education Committee is made up of 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans. The lone Republican opposing the anti-bullying bill was Rep. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer). Rep. Thatcher described the bill as “uncooked cookie dough” and that it needed to “bake for a little longer”. Thatcher is long known for her anti-gay, out-of-touch style of politics and in fact was a chief petitioner on the initiative to repeal Oregon’s anti-discrimination law.
Basic Rights Oregon estimates that the bill (HB 2599) will hit the House floor within the next week or two.
On another note, it was a party line vote (hey that rhymed!) to retain the class status components of the bill. The House Education Committee Vice Chair, Sherrie Sprenger, proposed removing “class status”.
Via Basic Rights Oregon’s press release:
“Bullying and harassment are far too common in Oregon schools,” said Dana Hepper of Stand for Children, who testified in favor of the bill at a hearing earlier this week. “This proposal will help keep children safe.”
House Bill 2599 would ensure statewide adoption of anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in public schools, create clear notice and complaint procedures and establish a comprehensive approach to address bullying. The proposal strengthens existing statute by clarifying the definition of bullying, adding specific guidelines, and encouraging training programs.
On Monday the House Education Committee heard testimony from youth with experiences of bullying and harassment.
“I was constantly harassed at school,” said Zach Martinson, now a student at Portland State University and a leader with Oregon Student Association. He added, “I got too scared to go to school and would beg my mom in the morning to let stay home. It affected my grades and my psychological well-being.”
This legislation has the support of the Safe Schools for All Youth Coalition – a network of 40 Oregon youth and advocacy organizations, ranging from student groups to disability advocates to ethnic and immigrant associations.
Representative Sara Gelser, Chair of the House Education Committee said, “My phone has been ringing off the hook with heartbreaking stories from families and youth experiencing harassment at school. They need help now. House Bill 2599 is an important step we can take today to give teachers, parents and students more tools to keep every student safe at school.”
Members of the House Education Committee approved amendments to the bill to ensure that schools can effectively implement the policy without impacting the budget. Advocates hope for quick action by the House.