Illinois Bullying Bill Approved By State Human Rights Commission

Legislation calling for a bullying prevention policy in Illinois was approved this week by the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

The proposal (House Bill 5290), sponsored by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), would require that schools implement aggressive guidelines aimed at preventing both bullying and cyberbullying beginning next fall.

Two years ago, Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation aimed at reducing bullying in schools by expanding the definition of bullying to include e-mail, text message or social media sites and a separate law which went into effect this year allows school boards and administrators to suspend or even expel a student who threatens another student or a school employee over the Internet.

Nevertheless, commission chairman Martin R. Castro said in a statement that "despite important past efforts at the state level, bullying remains far too common of a problem in our schools."

"It leaves psychological as well as physical scars that hamper children’s ability to gain an education," Castro continued. "Bullying and school violence not only destroy a child's self-esteem, they have even resulted in the loss of some children's lives. We should do everything in our power to eliminate bullying from our schools."

In Lynwood, Ill., Elisa Ramirez, a 10-year-old fifth grader at Sandridge School, last month accused her school of failing to intervene as a male classmate has allegedly verbally and physically abused her on school grounds for years. Most recently, Elisa went to the emergency room after the boy allegedly struck her in the face with a jump rope handle.

The family of Kathleen Mulvey, a former student at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Ill., filed a lawsuit against the school and her former basketball coach over intense bullying they claim gave their daughter post-traumatic stress disorder.

The new bill remains in the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee "to address concerns about unfunded mandates," Cassidy wrote on Facebook Wednesday.

Cassidy has also introduced legislation which would expand the state's criminal code to include hate-crime protections on the basis of one's gender identity. That bill was approved by the state Criminal Law Committee Thursday, the Windy City Times reports.

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