Thursday, March 24, 2011

Anti-bullying Advocates Support Behavior Proposal

An estimated 1,000 anti-bullying advocates gathered Wednesday in support of legislation that would address school bullying and cyberbullying.

The ensemble of students, organizations and families advocating for House Bill 1461 met in the Senate Chamber, where testimonials were given by numerous individuals on the effects of bullying.

The group included parent teacher associations from around the state, the NAACP Youth Council, Top Teens of America, and Emerging Young Leaders of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

The event was facilitated by Kirk Smalley, who is the father of the deceased 11-year-old victim of cyberbullying Ty Field, and coordinated by Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman.

Smalley emphasized that the day was for those students in attendance who had been bullied to share their story.

Pittman’s daughter, Ayshia, who is the 2nd Vice President of the Top Teens of America, gave the purpose of her national organization and how a local chapter has taken on bullying as a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Pittman said the rally gave students a chance to feel heard.

Rep. Anastasia Pittman
“Today is a wake up call to Oklahoma legislators that students are not only standing up for the silent, but they are also learning the process and the value of representative democracy,” Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, said. “We saved the lives of thousands of students across Oklahoma today by allowing them to feel like the bullying they face is being addressed. They should not have to balance threats and peer pressure to the point that they feel invisible or worthless.”

Rep. Lee Denney
House Bill 1461, by Rep. Lee Denney, adds cyberbullying to current state laws that specify how schools should address bullying behavior. The legislation also adds law enforcement to the list of groups that should be involved in coming up with a school’s anti-bullying policy.

“Oklahoma, we’ve got to do better,” Denney, R-Cushing, said. “Representative Pittman and I stand in solidarity that we need tougher laws to protect our children.”

Steve Hahn, program coordinator for Family and Children Services, said the bill gives school administrators additional tools to combat bullying.

“It gives schools and administrators and teachers some real depth in what they can do in pursuing cyberbullying either in or out of school, either inside or outside of school hours,” Hahn said. “With many of the administrators I’ve spoken to in the Northeast side of the state, it’s one of the No. 1 issues they’re facing today, cyberbullying and how it makes its way back into the classroom and how it really disrupts the school day.”

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