By Ray Hershel
BOSTON, Mass. (WGGB) — The Massachusetts Senate has unanimously approved a bill designed to clamp down on school bullies.
Proponents like state Sen. Gale Candaras, D-Wilbraham, said it’s been a long time in coming.
“Bullying has become a crisis in our schools, every year it’s gotten worse,” said Candaras.
It got so bad that South Hadley High School freshman Phoebe Prince took her own life after being bullied.
The suicide of 11-year-old Carl Walker Hoover of Springfield also moved the anti-bullying debate forward in the legislature.
Lawmakers like state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, said it’s time to start saving young lives.
“The situation in South Hadley was horrendous, our hearts go out to that family, to that whole school system, we have to act,” said Rosenberg.
The bill would prohibit bullying at school and discourage so called cyber bullying by prohibiting the use of e-mails, text messages, Internet postings and other electronic means to create a hostile school environment.
The bill also mandates that each school develop a bullying prevention and intervention plan.
State Sen. Stephen Buoniconti, D-West Springfield, said school principals will be scrutinized.
“This is going to be a performance issue for all principals, they’re going to have to stay on top of this, so the school committees will have a chance to review it, and if there’s a reason there’s a fall down by a certain community, that’s going to put them in hot water with the department of education.”
Some senators, like Sen. Michael Knapik, R-Westfield are concerned about enforcement and want to add more muscle to the measure.
“We will be setting a commission to get at the heart of some of these issues whereby the attorney general, district attorneys, school committee officials, school department officials and others will investigate some of these issues that may be beyond our ability to deal with them today in the bill,” said Knapik.
The legislation now moves on to the House and proponents hope it lands on Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk by the end of the month.