All schools must work to stop bullying

April 29, 2010

Your recent articles on bullying in schools fail to mention that in 2008 Gov. Martin O'Malley signed into law HB 199, co-sponsored by Delegates Craig Rice and Dana Stein, creating bullying prevention policies for all Maryland public schools. This bill has been called the most comprehensive bullying prevention legislation in the nation. This legislative initiative, which was enthusiastically supported by the Maryland State Department of Education, required the implementation of the model policy you refer to in your articles.

This year Delegates Rice and Stein introduced HB 1334, at my request, to require any private school that receives any state funds to adopt bullying prevention policies. The bill did pass out of the House of Delegates but regretfully not in time for reconciliation with the Senate. There was a very strong effort against legislation for private schools from AIMS, the Association of Independent Maryland Schools, whose executive director told me that "AIMS schools will not appreciate having a gun held to their heads." We are talking about kids and school safety and AIMS is not only refusing to talk about kids but responding to a public safety issue in language that references violence. Is it any wonder that bullying is reaching epidemic proportions?

Until all schools, public, private and parochial, understand the critical need for comprehensive and effective bullying prevention policies, we will continue to hear about students whose lives are forever impacted by bullying. And until families and communities recognize that what impacts one child, impacts all children, we will fail to stop the problem. All acts of bullying begin with words, not fists or kicks. Perhaps a first step would be for adults to model good behavior and teach our children that words are very powerful — they can hurt but they can also heal. Bullying prevention needs to start with the adults. After all, don't we teach our children to talk to an adult when there is a problem?

Marcie Goodman

The writer is Maryland legislative liaison for Bully Police USA.

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