Bullying is an unfortunate, yet all too common problem in our schools statewide. Over half of all students report to having witnessed bullying at school and one in four students report to having been the victim of bullying abuse. Even more tragic, statistics show that the incidence of bullying in schools has increased exponentially over the course of the last decade.
October is Anti-Bullying Awareness Month. Schools statewide often take this opportunity to discuss bullying prevention with their students. Many schools have even instituted programs such as "Mix It Up at Lunch" which is a lunchtime exercise that encourages students to sit with students outside of their immediate circle of friends. These programs have proven overwhelmingly successful in teaching young students about diversity and acceptance.
In addition to the success of independent school implemented programs, Democratic senators have also been quite successful in their own efforts toward promoting an anti-bullying agenda in Illinois.
A recent law requires schools to teach students about bullying prevention in every grade level. These courses must address intimidation, student victimization, sexual harassment, sexual violence and strategies for student-centered problem solving regarding bullying. The legislation also requires that every school district must have a policy on bullying filed with the State Board of Education. In the last General Assembly, Senate Democrats championed the creation of a task force whose sole purpose was to examine bullying in schools and identify effective legislative measures that would decrease its incidence.
Most recently, Democratic Senator Heather Steans sponsored legislation which adds more weight to current bullying prevention laws by requiring school districts to implement and enforce their anti-bullying policies. It also calls for official documentation of reports of bullying and procedural tracking of the investigation and resolution of bullying complaints. Senate Democrats will continue to fight for the passage of this bill and will keep looking for ways to make Illinois schools as safe and welcoming as possible for our children.