Anti-Bullying Bill Passes in Legislature

Students, Child Advocates, Teachers, and Civil Libertarians Applaud Legislature’s Action FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org Augusta, ME- The Legislature voted late yesterday to pass a revised version of the anti-bullying bill, LD 1237, by a vote of 32 to 2 in the Senate, and 128 to 4 in the House. “We applaud the Legislature for their efforts to stand up for kids,” said Ned McCann, Vice President of the Maine Children’s Alliance. “All Maine children deserve to be safe at school, and LD 1237 is a big step towards that goal.” The bill went through an extensive revision process in the Education Committee, with input from students, educators and stakeholders, before members of the committee voted unanimously to support the bill. “I witnessed bullying almost every day at school” says MaKayla Reed, a senior at Ellsworth High School who testified in support of the bill last year. “It means so much to me and students like me to know that the Legislature has supported a bill to help address this devastating issue.” “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. 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. 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. “This bill 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 bill that the Legislature approved yesterday 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 for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. Groups supporting passage of the bill include the ACLU of Maine, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & 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.

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