AMENDMENT TO BULLYING LEGISLATION PROVIDES BREATHING ROOM FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS

July 16, 2014

By Parker R. Himes

At our Administrator’s Workshop last month, we reported on House Bill 5707 and the strict timelines it would impose upon school officials responsible for investigating and responding to bullying complaints. We are pleased to report that a late Floor Amendment has relaxed those timelines to give school officials more flexibility and discretion.  Through the amendment, the General Assembly responded to concerns about the rigid nature of the original timelines and allows school districts more leeway concerning the timing of investigations and reports of instances of bullying.  The Governor signed this bill into law as Public Act 98-0669.

Now, instead of requiring an investigation to be concluded within 10 days of the receipt of a report of bullying, the law calls for districts to make “all reasonable efforts to complete the investigation within 10 days.”  Further, rather than requiring a report to the principal or his designee within 2 days of the receipt of a report of bullying, the principal or designee should receive the report “as soon as possible after the [initial] report is received.”  The provision requiring an investigation to begin within 1 school day of the receipt of a bullying report was also removed from the law. Finally, the provision requiring a report to parents of students involved in bullying incidents within 5 days of the principal or designee receiving a report of bullying was also changed.  Now, school districts must provide those parents “information about the investigation and an opportunity to meet with the principal or school administrator or designee” to discuss the investigation and its results.

Bullying remains a hot topic around the State. Your attorneys at Scariano, Himes and Petrarca continue to monitor this area and will keep you abreast of any new developments. Should you confront a bullying issue in your school district, we recommend contacting an attorney at the Firm so we may help you navigate this complex and ever-changing area of the law.