School Climate & Safety

Another Good Reason to Stop Bullying: Paperwork

By Ross Brenneman — October 19, 2012 2 min read
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Louisiana’s new anti-bullying law is drawing criticism for the workload it could place on schools once it takes effect in 2013.

Michael Faulk, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, told the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday that implementing the new procedures would create an “administrative nightmare” for public schools.

Louisiana approved Act 861 earlier this year, one of the most-extensive bullying laws in the nation. (A proposed law in the state of New York criminalizing bullying would put both states on par.) Faulk says that the procedural mandates will cause a big strain.

To begin with, bullying should be reported when it occurs:

1. On school property
2. At a school-sponsored or school-related function or activity
3. On the school bus or at a school bus stop

“And there’s Facebook,” Faulk said in a phone interview. The law makes provisions for cyberbullying, meaning that email, instant messages, text messages, and blogs are covered, too.

When a report is received, the school has one business day to open an investigation, and 10 school days to close it. In that time, investigators must interview the reporter, the victim, the alleged bully, and any witnesses, and must obtain any “copies or photographs of any audio-visual evidence.”

That reporting might sound standard if not for what Faulk says is an overly extensive definition of bullying. Rumormongering and “making faces,” for example, are both covered under the law. He says he’s already heard from several principals worried about implementation, especially the possible need to hire additional staff.

Not that Faulk disagrees with the law. Bullying is definitely a problem, he noted, but he wants to find ways to ease the burden on schools when the state legislature reconvenes in March.

His worries aren’t new ones; when New Jersey passed its anti-bullying law last year, for example, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators called it “well-intentioned” but “overly prescriptive.”

Every state but Montana has a bullying law of some kind, but the implementation of such laws is clearly as important as the inception. (Montana, presumably, fears retribution from its local bison, which are well known to be the bullies of the animal kingdom.) So while Louisiana isn’t necessarily covering new ground, it may be one of the first to re-examine the ground its covered.

How has your school followed through on bullying laws? Have you had any problems with workload? Let us know in the comments.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.