Anti-bullying bill opponents question use of suspensions as punishment

Ohio Statehouse (file photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – On its surface, the problem with bullying seems simple enough to solve, but once you start delving into the issue it becomes less simple and more difficult.

Some school districts have complained that the legislature hasn’t provided them with a clear structure to deal with bullies.

State Representative David Greenspan is trying to rectify that but his legislation is getting pushback from at least one group and a non-committal from at least one other.

In opposition to his anti-bullying bill is the Ohio Public Defenders (OPD). The group says it would contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline because it uses in and out of school suspensions as a disciplinary measure.

On the fence about the bill is the Juvenile Justice Coalition (JJC), which neither supports nor opposes the bill.

They too are not thrilled about the use of suspensions, especially out of school suspensions. The group is also concerned with how students will connect with community service opportunities the bill calls for.

Both groups would like to see counseling used as a response to bullying.

The OPD would prefer to see counseling be mandatory, and the JJC says it should be situational.

An early draft of the bill had counseling for the bully as mandatory, but currently, it is optional.

The JJC could swing to a more favorable stance on the bill, going so far as to support it even, if it provided more in terms of prevention and creating a positive school climate.

It is unclear how likely that is, given the bills primary reason to exist is to accentuate already existing legislation that mandates the creation of that positive school climate.

With three hearings completed on this bill, there shouldn’t be too many more before a possible vote on it could be held.

If it makes it out of committee, it would head to the House floor for a vote there and then start the process over again in the Senate where two other, very different, anti-bullying bills are currently being heard.

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