by Karen LaShelle, Executive and Artistic Director
Rep. Diane Patrick (R-Arlington), the primary author of HB 1942 stated, “Parents and children deserve to know they are within safe walls while receiving an education.” She added, “I am especially grateful for the work that Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) and other House Public Education members contributed to lead this bill to fruition.”
Indeed, the efforts to pass an anti-bullying law have extended over multiple legislative sessions dating back over 15 years to legislation filed by former Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt, and current members Reps. Garnet Coleman, Harold Dutton, Mark Strama, Diane Patrick and Senators John Whitmire, Wendy Davis, and Leticia Van de Putte.
But it was the courageous efforts by Texas parents whose children have suffered from bullying that propelled the bipartisan effort in the Texas House and Senate to finally pass meaningful anti-bullying legislation in the wake of recent bullying-related tragedies in Texas and across the country.
Amy and David Truong of Houston lost their son, Asher Brown, eight months ago to bullying-related suicide. The couple has been working tirelessly for passage of the law. “It was a promise I made to Asher the day that he died before his little body left this house,” Amy Truong said. “I told him that I would never stop fighting until we did something to change this.” David said, “We’ll never let this happen to any other family.”
Equality Texas made anti-bullying legislation its top priority for the legislative session. Executive Director Dennis Coleman stated, “Our 2010 Equality Poll showed overwhelming public support for legislation to address the problem of bullying in schools. We were determined to focus all our efforts to provide school administrators, teachers and parents with tools to create a safe learning environment for every student.”
The new law will:
- Establish a new bullying definition that includes bullying through electronic means;
- Integrates awareness, prevention, identification, and resolution of and intervention in bullying into the health curriculum;
- Provides local school boards with discretion to transfer a student found to have bullied to another classroom or to another campus in consultation with the parent or guardian; and
- Requires local school districts to adopt and implement a bullying policy that recognizes minimum guidelines such as prohibition of bullying, providing counseling options, and establishes procedures for reporting an incidence of bullying.
The sponsor of HB 1942 in the Senate, State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) stated, “Texas could no longer ignore this problem. It was imperative that our state take action and implement the appropriate steps to prevent further unnecessary bullying that unfortunately occurs in our public schools.”
Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) added, “The real goal is prevention. We’ve got to hold public school officials accountable when they know about these acts.”