Local Politics

Anti-bullying bill moves closer to passage

Posted June 22, 2009 10:57 p.m. EDT
Updated June 23, 2009 5:47 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina's schools could soon be required to adopt polices that discourage bullying behavior.

The state House approved Monday evening the School Violence Prevention Act that requires school districts to approve anti-bullying rules by the end of the year.

Sponsors of the bill say it helps children who are victims of bullies, like Natalie Sbraccia's 13-year-old daughter.

“She was fearful at the bus stop. She was afraid at any given moment that she was going to be attacked,” Sbraccia said.

Sbraccia gathered evidence of the threats and took them to administrators at the Granville County middle school her daughter attended, but she said no action was taken.

"Kids can't learn if they don't feel safe,” said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, who is co-sponsoring the bill.

The bill identifies a bully as a person who makes written, electronic or verbal threats on school property and school buses.

School districts would have to list characteristics, such as race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, of a student who could be predisposed to bullying behavior.

Stein said not enough school districts enforce anti-bulling rules.

"Only 23 of the 100-plus school districts in North Carolina have a comprehensive policy that addresses a range of issues,” Stein said.

Under the bill, punishments for bullying would be left up to school districts. The bill would require educators to address the problem, Stein said.

"For you to be able to go to the school district and pull the policy up on the Web and show the administration, you are going to have a better hearing,” Stein said.

Sbraccia says the harassment against her daughter eventually stopped but not until the bully was taken out of school for a fight with another student.

The Senate has already passed the legislation. It needs one more pro House vote before it goes to Gov. Bev Perdue to sign into law.