June 16 2012
All Students Should be a “Protected Class” When it Comes to Bullying
From 1999 to 2010, states enacted more than 120 anti-bullying bills. Another 29 bills were signed as of April 30, 2011.
A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that “reported levels of bullying and related effects are significant. Research shows that bullying can have detrimental outcomes for victims, including adverse psychological and behavioral outcomes.”
While some research suggests up to 28 of students (mostly in middle and high school) are bullied, the full extent of bullying is unknown among certain student demographic groups. That’s because state and federal laws vary in classifying “protected classes” of students—typically by race and gender. This means some students may be protected against bullying according one set of school safety or civil rights laws yet remain unprotected according to others.
In April the Department of Education and Health and Human Services re-launched the Stop Bullying website, available here. Information is a vital prevention step. But the GAO concluded that “the nature and extent of protections available to students who are bullied depend on the laws and policies where they live or go to school.”
Safety at school shouldn’t depend on where parents can afford to live. Parents, not labels, should be the ultimate arbiters of school safety. Rather than wait years at a time for the dust to settle from bureaucratic turf wars over which agency is responsible for protecting which category of children, parents with a reasonable apprehension for their children’s safety should be able to use Safety Opportunity Scholarships (SOS) to transfer them to safer schools—public, private, virtual, or home schools.