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Bill would require Indiana schools to notify parents of bully and victim

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Posted at 5:43 PM, Mar 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-27 11:40:44-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A new push is underway to stop bullying in schools and inform parents when it’s happening.

WRTV Investigates has been tracking this problem for years.

Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, authored House Bill 1483 which would require schools to prioritize the safety of victims in cases of bullying.

The legislation would require schools to investigate bullying and inform the parents of the victim within three days and the parents of the accused bully within five days.

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“Sometimes the parents of the victim is not apprised of the situation and doesn't know the child is being taunted and the parent of the perpetrator doesn't know their child is acting like bullies,” said Smith.

In extreme cases, the victim or the bully can be transferred to another school at the victim’s request.

“We need to make sure kids feel that schools are safe places,” said Smith. “They shouldn't not want to go to school because they are getting harassed."

READ | Lawrence Twp. parent makes son buy shoes for classmate he made fun of

Sydney Barlow, 12, a student in Central Indiana and her mother Jennifer support the legislation.

"I think it's a great idea,” said Jennifer Barlow. “There's a lot of hiding behind confidentiality with schools and they're not always forthcoming with the incidents that have happened."

Sydney said she is a victim of bullying and feels unsafe at school.

“She charged at me, knocked me to the ground and started wailing on me," said Sydney. “I'm worried I’m going to get attacked again. So that doesn't feel safe."

Both Sydney and her mother know what can happen when a student is bullied.

"They can be pushed to suicide,” said Sydney.

Rep. Smith said teen suicide is one of the reasons he filed House Bill 1483.

Just this month, a Covington Indiana teen, Terry Badger III, died by suicide.

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His family blamed bullying.

WRTV Investigates found Covington Middle School, where Badger attended, reported zero bullying incidents to the Indiana Department of Education for the 2021-2022 school year.

WRTV Investigates found many schools are not reporting bullying cases.

BREAKDOWN OF 5,103 BULLYING INCIDENTS (2021-22)

  • 1,952 Verbal
  • 1,616 Physical
  • 543 Social/Relational
  • 473 Electronic/Written
  • 519 Combination Incidents

WRTV Investigates ran the numbers and found 50% of schools reported zero incidents in every single category.

The state has very specific criteria as to what can be considered bullying including that the behavior is repeated and has a “substantially detrimental effect” on the targeted student’s physical or mental health.

Prompted by a WRTV Investigation that found many Indiana schools reported zero incidents of bullying, in 2018, the Governor signed a new law that allows the Indiana Department of Education to audit schools if parents suspect they’re not being truthful about bullying.

PREVIOUS | Governor signs new bullying law after WRTV finds schools misreported

However, IDOE has not conducted a single audit since the law took effect in 2018.

IDOE created this new Bullying Discrepancy Report Form for you to submit any concerns when it comes to your school’s bullying numbers.

Rep. Vernon Smith’s bullying bill has already passed out of the Indiana House and is now being considered by the Senate.

Dr. Robert Taylor, executive director at the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, says they support the bill.

IAPPS Statement:

“IAPSS supports the intent and focus of the House Bill 1483 with full endorsement. There are questions as to how the intent of transferring a student will be accomplished when the district only has one school, aka only one middle school or high school. But we are comfortable with the language when that option is feasible.

Clearly the intent of the bill is to be proactive and concise in not only addressing but also providing proactive interventions to stop acts of bullying and harassment. Clearly every attempt should be made to address any issue of bullying and or intimidation. IAPSS appreciates and supports Representative Smith and the co-authors of HB 1483 for their efforts to assist educators and school leaders in insuring all students are in the safest and most supportive learning environment possible.”