E-mail from Indiana State Senator Tom Wyss (R-15):
Wyss Focuses on State’s Bullying Law, Works on Ways to Improve
Author of Indiana’s 2005 bullying law, education leaders to work together to improve statute and protect students
State Sen. Tom Wyss (R-Fort Wayne), author of Indiana’s bullying law, said today he’s looking for ways to strengthen the legislation by including the latest threats to youth – cyberbullies.
“While some states are just now following Indiana’s lead in passing anti-bullying legislation, others are working to keep up with advancements in technology,” Wyss said. “A growing number of youths are using cell phones and the Internet to harass others. This behavior is not currently covered in our law and I will work with the education community to make sure we find an appropriate solution.”
In 2005, Wyss championed Indiana’s anti-bullying legislation which prohibits bullying in schools. Wyss said he plans to analyze the law’s strengths and weaknesses to make sure the state is doing everything it can to protect young Hoosiers.
This week, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed the state’s first anti-bullying measure into law in response to two teen deaths related to bullying. The new law cracks down on bullies, requires teachers to report incidents and prohibits cyberbullying or harassment via the Internet.
“The tragic circumstances that spurred lawmakers in Massachusetts to take action against bullies are unfortunate,” Wyss said. “They now have a law that includes broad prohibitions against any actions that could cause emotional or physical harm, including text messages and taunting over the Internet. These incidents are reminders that Indiana lawmakers must continue to update our own bullying law to prevent these types of incidents.”
Wyss plans to further review the Massachusetts legislation and other states’ policies related to cyberbullies. He said his early research shows stealing passwords, impersonating fellow students online, sending viruses and spam to e-mail inboxes and posting embarrassing videos and photos are problems among teens.
Wyss said he plans to work with the Indiana Department of Education, Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana State Teachers Association, Indiana Association of School Principals, Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents and the Indiana School Boards Association on a comprehensive plan to strengthen Indiana’s bullying law.
“Studies show bullying results in lower attendance, poorer academic achievement, more violence and increased criminal activity,” Wyss said. “As a parent and grandparent, I understand the challenges children already face at school and this type of behavior should not be tolerated.”
A 2010 national survey by the U.S. Department of Justice revealed the number of youth being bullied and assaulted by their peers is on the decline. Researchers credited states’ actions toward bullying, but said there are still too many children being affected across the country.
In 2005, Wyss’ Indiana law established a statutory definition of bullying, set up an education outreach and training initiative under the Indiana Safe School Fund and prohibited the act of bullying with the discipline policies and procedures issued by school corporations.
Indiana law defines bullying as any verbal, physical or other act committed by a student with the intent of harassing, ridiculing, intimidating or harming another student.
The Senator’s official website