INDIANAPOLIS — State lawmakers have rejected yet another effort to improve anti-bullying efforts at additional Indiana school districts.
State Rep. Gregory Porter, D-Indianapolis, filed an amendment to add language to House Bill 1005 requiring charter and voucher schools to adopt anti-bullying practices.
The proposal would have required state-funded charter and voucher schools to adopt the same bullying reporting requirements of traditional K-12 public schools.
"I've been fighting to combat bullying in our schools for years," Porter said. "And as time goes on, we've seen technological advantages open up a whole new world of abuse, one that can't be escaped just by leaving school property. In 2020, our schools went virtual, drastically increasing the time each student has spent online. And with those developments comes more chances for cyberbullying."
The amendment was voted down in the House Ways and Means Committee.
Porter filed House Bill 1185 but it has yet to get a hearing in the Indiana House Education Committee.
By law, private schools do not have to report bullying numbers to the Indiana Department of Education.
House Bill 1185 would require charter schools and private schools to adopt anti-bullying policies if they accept funding or financial assistance from the state.
WRTV Investigates found the number of bullying incidents reported by Indiana schools is dropping.
A total of 4,495 bullying incidents were reported in the 2019-20 school year, compared to 5,257 in 2018-19 and 5,604 in 2017-18.
"We have a serious problem in Indiana when it comes to accountability in protecting our students," Porter said. "We've struggled to get our public schools to report instances of bullying. But the charter schools our General Assembly is so eager to hand more and more money to are not even required to address it at all.”
Last school year’s numbers include March-June 2020, when many school buildings were shut down due to COVID-19.
"This issue is especially prevalent to House Bill 1005, which purports specifically to help students with disabilities and students in the foster care system, who we know face bullying at even higher, rates than their peers,” Porter said. “ If we are unable to find time to pass this legislation on its own, it must be attached elsewhere. We cannot wait to take action.”
Porter said he will not stop fighting until every school in our state is safe for Hoosier students.
Schools are supposed to annually report physical, verbal, social, electronic and combination bullying incidents to the Indiana Department of Education.
In its annual bullying report, IDOE says, “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent closure of school buildings in March 2020, comparing data to any previous school year will not be an effective measure of trends."
WRTV Investigates found schools breaking that law by misreporting their bullying numbers — in at least one case by more than 500% 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.