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    Monday, March 04, 2024

    No bully pulpit

    No doubt there have always been bullies, individuals who cruelly taunt others and seemingly get satisfaction from doing it. But these days bullying, particularly among young people, seems to be more prevalent and dangerous. That's unacceptable, and adults must do all they can to stop it.

    At the state Capitol this week lawmakers on the Education Committee debated, then unanimously passed, legislation that broadens Connecticut's existing bullying laws to include cyberbullying and toughens laws already on the books.

    A slew of lawmakers, educators and youth advocates submitted testimony in support of the bill, some wholeheartedly endorsing it and others suggesting small tweaks here and there. The "Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying Laws" appears to have widespread support, and it should.

    Every day, 160,000 children across the country miss school because of fear of an attack or intimidation by other students, said Attorney General George Jepsen, citing National Education Association figures. Further, six out of 10 American teenagers say they witness bullying in school daily.

    That is more than problematic; it's a crisis.

    Connecticut's proposed law is fashioned after similar legislation in Massachusetts, which requires schools to intervene within one day of learning there is a bullying problem. It expands the definition of bullying to electronic communications - which is a real and growing problem with the easy access to cell phones, computers and the Internet, and because of the popularity of social networking.

    The Connecticut bill mandates annual training of every school employee on the prevention, identification and response to school bullying. Mandates are oftentimes onerous on local school systems, but in this bill the language stipulates that the Department of Education will be responsible. Training can be presented by mentors, at state workshops, online or through reading materials.

    That's a common sense and economical approach. Bullying can destroy self-esteem and leave some victims suicidal. The state needs to be aggressive and send a strong anti-bullying message.

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