U.S. Sen. Bob Casey came to Northeast Middle School in Bethlehem on Thursday to announce a bill he will propose to prevent bullying and harassment in schools.
The Safe Schools Improvement Act would require schools and districts that receive federal funding to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment and encourage them to implement bullying prevention programs.
The Bethlehem Area School District already does both, but many districts do not, Casey told The Express Times. Nationwide, 60,000 students skip school every day to avoid being bullied, the senator told the newspaper.
The Bethlehem Area School District has been proactive in addressing this topic by participating in such programs as the Anti-Defamation League’s campaign, No Place for Hate, which requires them to have school-wide activities that celebrate diversity and promote respect.
The students also recently held a Rally for Peace as part of a weeklong effort to promote a positive school climate at Northeast Middle School.
Casey plans to introduce his bill next week with Mark Kirk, R-IL, and other cosponsors.
“Bullying and harassment affect millions of students every year,” Casey said. “I am re-introducing the Safe Schools Improvement Act to help ensure that every child receives a quality education that builds self-confidence. This bill is a crucial step toward ensuring that no child is afraid to go to school for fear of bullying.”
The Safe Schools Improvement Act requires school districts receiving federal funds adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including conduct based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion.
The bill also requires states to collect information on incidents of bullying and harassment and report this information to the Department of Education. This data must also be readily available to the public so that parents and the local community may know what is happening in their schools.