Bringing about bullying awareness - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Bringing about bullying awareness

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Anti Bullying rally outside Helena Public Schools Anti Bullying rally outside Helena Public Schools
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HELENA -- Dozens of parents, children, and concerned citizens rallied in front of the Helena Public Schools administration building Monday afternoon, demonstrating for the need for enhanced bullying laws and education.

Montana is the only state without laws against bullying. 

Previous attempts at passing bills have failed but some state officials say there exists a glimmer of hope this legislative session; House Bill 284 is serving as the spearhead.

Superintendent of the Office of Public Instruction Denise Juneau said, "I really look at this bill, sort-of being a parent and student law that they can grab onto and take to their school district and ask what their policy is."

The Montana State Board of Education has set rules for school districts, requiring them to adopt a policy which addresses bullying.  Juneau says HB 284 reflects much of what the state board already has in place.

Karl Olsen doesn't believe legislation is necessary to combat bullying. He said it should remain a school district issue. But Karl has made an exception.

Olsen said, "I think we have laws that deal with that kind of thing but if they're not being applied, then something else has to be done. If we have to have something more specific that points it right to bullying then that's what we got to do."

So what's preventing the passage of bullying laws in Montana? Patricia Spencer of Montana City said from her conversations with legislators, it comes down to the First Amendment and personal rights.

Spencer said,"I'm a strong advocator of the First Amendment but the First Amendment ends when you enter a crowded building and yell fire and that's what bullying is doing, whether you're doing it on the phone, Facebook, or you're doing it in person."

Superintendent of Helena Public Schools Kent Kultgen said, "I'm not against legislation. I do believe that it empowers; but to think that legislation is going to end bullying is wrong."

Kultgen acknowledges the prevalence of bullying in Montana. He said the Helena Public School District follows policy accordingly when a bullying situation occurs. He also noted bullying often times goes unreported.

Kultgen said, "A child should be able to report that to their teacher or their administrator or counselor so it can be handled quickly and appropriately so we can handle the business of education."

HB 284 will be discussed further in a House committee hearing on Wednesday.

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