February 3, 2012 By Government Services Practice Group
WHAT HAPPENED: Yesterday, Governor Kasich signed into law House Bill 116 (also known as the "Jessica Logan Act" in memory of a student who committed suicide due to bullying via texting). This bill expands the scope of Ohio's current anti-bullying law to prohibit harassment by electronic means. This includes harassment, intimidation, and bullying through computers, cell phones, or other electronic devices. The bill also requires school districts to amend their anti-bullying policies and procedures.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: House Bill 116 imposes several new requirements on school districts, including the following:
- School districts must revise anti-bulling policies to prohibit bullying on school buses and to provide for the possibility of suspension of a student responsible for harassment, intimidation, or bullying by an electronic act (i.e., cyber-bullying).
- School district anti-bullying policies must include a strategy for protecting a bulling victim or other persons from new or additional bullying, including a means by which a person can report an incident anonymously.
- School district anti-bullying policies must include a statement prohibiting students from deliberately making false reports of bullying and a disciplinary procedure for any student responsible for deliberately making a false report.
- School districts must require all students in the district to be provided annually with age-appropriate instruction (as determined by the board of education) on the board's anti-bullying policy, including a written or verbal discussion of the consequences for violating the school's policy.
- Once per school year, school districts must send a written statement describing the anti-bullying policy and consequences for violations to each student's custodial parent or guardian. This can be sent electronically or with report cards.
- School districts must include training on the anti-bullying policy in its in-service training program for child abuse prevention or intervention required for all teachers, administrators, counselors, nurses, and school psychologists.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO: With the passing of HB 116, school districts will be required to update current anti-bullying policies. It is important to note that HB 116 does not specifically expand the definition of bullying to include all incidents that occur off school property. Therefore, school districts should carefully draft these new policies to avoid constitutional challenges.