She's a mother and a delegate, and she's leading a new effort to fight back against bullies. Del. Jennifer McClellan is sponsoring House Bill 1871, legislation that would mandate new protections for kids in Virginia schools.
"There are a lot of people who are being bullied who feel they can't do anything about it," said Del. McClellan in an interview Wednesday. "We can certainly make it easier for victims of bullying to break that cycle."
Signing an anti-bullying bill into law is one of the key recommendations from Governor McDonnell's school safety task force, a measure that could protect students, help test scores and even save lives.
If McClellan's bill becomes law, every school in the commonwealth will have to provide ways for students to anonymously report bullying. Schools would also be required to investigate each credible report of bullying, a policy that is not in place in every school district.
Bullying would be defined by law as "aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm or humiliate the victim and which is repeated over time." The definition eliminates lighthearted teasing, and McClellan says focuses on the major problem.
"It's the over and over and over again, I'm coming after you because I think I'm in a position of power over you," McClellan said.
Cyber-bullying is also part of the effort. Nasty comments for the most part cannot be punished. But if something posted online triggers a fight in school, the school may levy consequences.
"The school can't go and get your Facebook page. They can't reprimand you for what's on your Facebook page. They're only going to reprimand you for what goes on in the school."
The bill goes before the Senate Education and Health Committee Thursday, and could come up for a full vote in the Senate by next week. The House has already passed the bill, and it is expected to make its way to the Governor's desk. Schools will have a July 1, 2014 deadline to come up with concrete, anti-bullying plans.
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