MT 2011 Legislature

Feb 24, 2011 12:19 PM by Marnee Banks

MT Senate gives OK to school anti-bullying proposal

The Montana Senate on Wednesday gave the green light to a bill which addresses bullying in Montana schools.

MT State Senator Kim Gillan (D-Billings) says her bill requires every school district in the state to adopt an anti-bullying policy.

Each district can choose what its policy contains, but the bill states it must define bullying, prohibit bullying, and develop a procedure for reporting and investigating cases of harassment.

Gillan said, "This bill doesn't just address the occasional, nasty, exchange of words between school children which will be typical. I raised 2 teenagers. This talks about persistent bullying and harassment that interferes, that interferes with our young people's ability to participate in school."

MT State Senator Greg Hinkle (R-Thompson Falls) said, "I hate to say it, but I am going to give this vote a no vote because of the state mandating upon the schools, when I believe the school districts should be able to take care of themselves."

The bill passed a second reading on a 37 to 17 vote.

(January 24, 2011) MT State Senator Kim Gillan (D-Billings) wants every public school in Montana to adopt an anti-bullying policy.

She is sponsoring the Montana Schools are for Education Act, or SAFE Act. The bill prohibits bullying, harassment, or intimidation of students.

It also requires the Office of Public Instruction to develop a model anti-harassment policy. Then according to the bill each district must adopt their own anti-bullying policy.

Many people testified for and against the bill on Monday.

Torey Keltner works as a resource police officer at Helena High School.

"It affects my work every single day. I can say that bullying is the root of most of the crimes that I deal with," Keltner says.

Harris Himes of Montana Eagle Forum says he worries the policy would violate free speech laws.

"This bill would be a weapon to be used against any kind of anti-homosexual dissent," Himes says.

Chanda Merkel is a freshman at Helena High School and had been the victim of bullying.

"Every day I was called names, given rude gestures, tripped and pushed in the hallways, and talked about," Merkel says.

Theresa Frei is the mother of children in the Helena area.

"I think I stand in agreement with everyone in this room, and none of us are in support of bullying. However, I do oppose this bill because I oppose the concentration of power in the Office of Public Instruction," Frei says.

Attorney General Steve Bullock and Superintendent Denise Juneau both support the bill.

Click here to read the full text of the bill.