by MOLLY MOSER
On Mar. 20, the Senate Committee on Education discussed Senate Bill 164, a measure designed to clarify the definition of bullying and to provide safe and respectful learning environments in Nevada schools.
SB 164 would require the Nevada State Board of Education and the board of trustees of each school district to provide information and keep track of a database of reported instances of bullying, cyber-bullying or harassment. This bill would also require each public school to hold an annual assembly to teach students about the dangers of bullying and how it affects their peers. Sen. David Parks, who presented the bill, said Nevada currently holds a high ranking with the issue of bullying among the country.
Joyce Holdem of Clark County School District said that the bill would make a positive impact on schools, though the definition of bullying needs to be redefined. She added that bullying is an intentional or repeated abuse, along with exploiting the imbalance of power.
“Bullying doesn’t happen just one time,” Holdem said. “It must be more than once, because ‘one time’ could be a mistake or it’s just fighting.”
The Clark County School District has a database called Say No To Bullying, made for parents and students to report incidents of bullying. Holdem said within the past year, there were about 1800 incident reports across Clark County schools. However, Holdem said, 600 reports were invalid and about 1200 had resolutions, such as suspensions or expulsions. She said starting in August 2014, a new student information database will be activated for teachers to identify and report harassment and bullying; the Say No To Bullying program would no longer be in use after the new database is installed.
The bill would require teachers to go through training on how to identify bullying and when to report it. In support of the bill, Chris Saldaña, 8 News Now of Las Vegas anchor, said cyber-bullying should be focused on since social media sites like Instagram and Twitter are used more often when it comes to bullying. Some of Saldaña’s reports regarded children who were victims of bullying.
“We need to keep this training as relevant as we can,” Saldaña said. “I’m passionate about this because of the stories I’ve covered and the families I’ve met who lost their children from bullying.”
Ron Quinn of the Las Vegas Steering Committee said the Nevada Human Rights Campaign is in full support of the bill. He said the data the schools will receive from students about bullying incidents would be significant to the parents and teachers because they will have a better understanding of how bullying is different today compared decades ago.
“Bullying is now twenty-four seven, it’s everywhere you go.” Quinn said. “I don’t think the parents today could understand the depth of what bullying is like today because we don’t know – we didn’t experience it.”
There were no opposing testimonies. The primary sponsors of SB 164 are Sens. Parks, Pat Spearman, Joyce Woodhouse, Ruben Kihuen and Tick Segerblom. Assembly members James Healy, Elliot Anderson, David Bobzien, Ellen Spiegal and Paul Aizley are also primary sponsors of this bill.