SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - A bill to deal with bullying at Utah schools moved forward in the legislature Wednesday. It requires parents to be informed about any bullying incidents, and also includes protections for teachers.
The main part of the bill would mean students, parents, and teachers would have to sign an annual agreement to acknowledge they understand a school's bullying policy.
Sen. Luz Escamalia,(D) from Salt Lake City, has been working on the bill for more than four years. Her hope is to deal with the problem of bullying and it's relation to teen suicide.
"Bullying behavior and suicide related behavior are very closely related," said Sen Escamalia during her testimony. "Utah happens to have one of the highest rates of youth suicide in the country."
The bill would also require all incidents of bullying to be tracked by schools, and the numbers to be turned over to the State Board of Education. So they can have actual data on the problem.
Sen. Escamalia notes one of the main components to deal with the problem is informing parents. She believes this would help cut back on the problem, and allow parents to help deal with the issue.
"What we're hearing is that parents are never involved," said Sen. Escamalia. "They never knew there was a bullying incident whether their child was the victim of bullying or the bully. I think parents want to be informed."
The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Education Committee. Sen. Lyle Hillyard, (R) of Logan, is in favor of the legislation, but also did have concerns the wording would open up schools to lawsuits.
"We pass statues to do certain things, and we intend certain things from them, but now somebody gets damaged and the school district hasn't gotten the signatures," said Sen. Hillyard.
Sen. Escamalia assured him it wouldn't, but said she plans to make some updates to the language of the bill. Those changes will be voted on before the full Senate probably sometime next week.
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