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New Version of Anti-Bullying Bill Passes Education Committee

Augusta -

AUGUSTA, Maine — Members of the Education Committee today voted to pass a revised version of the anti-bullying bill, LD 1237, by a vote of 13 to 0 (unanimous).

“All Maine children deserve to be safe at school. This bill provides meaningful guidelines that will help prevent bullying,” said Ned McCann, Vice President of the Maine Children’s Alliance. “We applaud the Education committee for their good work on this issue, and encourage the full Legislature to echo their efforts to stand up for kids.”

Following testimony from students, educators and advocates last year, and extensive engagement with stakeholders since January, members of the committee added an amendment to the bill that finalizes a prohibition on bullying and cyberbullying and set a floor of basic protections for students state-wide.

“Watching my friends be bullied because of who they are is simply unbearable,” says MaKayla Reed, a senior at Ellsworth High School who testified in support of the bill last year. “L.D. 1237 will ensure that all students will be safe in their schools, and with the epidemic of bullying on the rise, that is a breath of fresh air.”

The bill improves on existing Maine law by providing a clear definition of bullying, an explicit prohibition on bullying behavior, a range of alternative discipline strategies for schools, policies focused on prevention and accountability, and training on how to address and prevent bullying for teachers. LD 1237 would bring Maine into alignment with 47 other states’ with anti-bullying laws. Maine law currently requires only that bullying be addressed in the Student Code of Conduct – something that has led to great variation in the state.

“Teachers know firsthand that students can’t learn if they’re scared to be in school. This bill will help make sure that all kids feel safe in their classrooms and can focus on learning,” said Chris Galgay, the President of the Maine Education Association.

“This will make a real and positive difference in the lives of all of our students. While many schools in Maine are doing good work, this bill would ensure that all students are protected no matter what community they live in,” said Mary L. Bonauto, an attorney with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.

“The Public Education Committee has struck an appropriate balance that protects student safety and freedom of speech. We can reduce bullying in school without undermining our fundamental civil liberties.” said Alysia Melnick, Public Policy Council, NCLU of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

Groups supporting passage of the bill include the ACLU of Maine, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), Maine Children’s Alliance, Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, EqualityMaine, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, the Maine Council of Churches, the Maine Education Association, the Maine Women’s Lobby, and the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination.

The next step for the bill will be a vote in the House, which voted 80 to 54 in favor of the bill last year, with sixteen legislators absent.

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