Kentucky lawmakers are at odds about the effectiveness of anti-bullying legislation that took effect in 2008. A proposal meant to strengthen the law failed in a state legislative committee Tuesday. Lawmakers in the House Education Committee heard testimony from friends and family members of bullying victims. Despite the bullying law, they say children are still tormented and harassed at school.
“They are our children. And when they go to school, the schools have a custodial duty to ensure the well-being and safety of a child. No child can learn in a hostile environment,” said Ohio mother Cynthia Logan. Her daughter committed suicide at age 18.
House Bill 336 [Word Doc], sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D-Louisville) would more clearly define harassment and bullying. It would protect students from bullying based on a student’s actual or perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, physical or mental disability, or other distinguishing personal characteristic.
Representative Ben Waide, a Republican from Hopkins County, said he is against the bill because it would provide special rights to certain people.
“If this law were to pass, then we would be placing into our school statutes for the first time in history, gay rights language. Why don’t we protect all students?”
Other lawmakers said they believe the current bullying law is sufficient and that schools and parents need to have a better discussion about how to enforce it.
The latest proposal has the support of the Kentucky Fairness Coalition but is opposed by the Family Foundation. It failed to get the 15 votes need for passage out of committee.