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State lawmakers nix proposal for private schools to follow bullying rules

Amendment failed on party line vote
Indiana Statehouse.jpg
Posted at 12:33 PM, Feb 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-12 12:33:37-05

INDIANAPOLIS — State lawmakers on Monday nixed a proposal that would have required private schools, or any school that accepts state funding, to have the same types of rules against bullying as public schools.

Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, filed an amendment to House Bill 1640 that would require nonpublic schools to prohibit bullying and implement a protocol for investigating bullying including a method for anonymous reporting of bullying incidents, timetables for informing the parents and other parties like law enforcement, and support services for the bully and the victim.

The amendment would have allowed the Indiana Department of Education to review the bullying policies at any school that accepts state funding or financial assistance.

Porter’s amendment failed by a party line vote of 30 in favor and 62 against, with Republicans showing their opposition to Porter’s bullying plan for nonpublic schools.

“I am very displeased about this,” Porter said. “I think (House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning) and GOP leadership should be exposed for this lack of movement.”

The Marion County Commission on Youth had also been working with Porter to broaden bullying requirements for private schools.

“That's disappointing for sure,” John Brandon, MCCOY president, said in response to the amendment’s failure.

Currently, public and charter schools are required to report bullying incidents to the Indiana Department of Education, however, private schools are not required to share that information with the state or the public.

RELATED | Indiana high schools report 0 bullying, parents disagree

Davey Combs, a sixth-grade student at a private school in central Indiana, and his father David Combs asked state lawmakers to include private schools in the reporting law.

“Some of my stuff disappears and then it pops up months later,” Davey Combs, a student who said he’s bullied regularly at a private school, said. “They call me baby. It’s happened to other kids also.”

Davey wants private schools to be held to the same standard as other schools, and be transparent about how often students are bullied.

“They should have some kind of law to have some sort of record for bullying,” Davey said. “So, the government can see and they can tell them to stop or other things.”

The law requiring schools to report bullying dates back to 2013 , but charter schools haven’t always provided the information to the Indiana Department of Education, according to IDOE spokesperson Adam Baker.

“The statute listing what charters need to provide DOE does not list bullying data,” Baker said. “However, the statute listing what is to be included in the annual performance report, lists bullying data. So as is the ongoing process with all of this, we have ramped up our communication to ensure charters know this is to be included.”

The state has 99 active charter schools, and more than 350 accredited/choice private schools.

Prompted by a Call 6 Investigation into major discrepancies in how school districts were reporting bullying data, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a new law into effect in June 2018 to better hold schools accountable.

SEE THE INVESTIGATION HERE | Despite law, schools are misreporting their bullying data

House Enrolled Act 1356 is nicknamed “Bullying Bill 3.0” because it tweaks the original bullying reporting law that went into effect in 2013.

Call 6 Investigates found schools breaking that law by misreporting their bullying numbers — in at least one case by more than 500 percent in a single year. The investigation also found that nearly 60 percent of schools reported zero bullying incidents, a figure Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) officials found hard to believe.