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Minutes for HB2578 - Committee on Education

Short Title

Concerning school districts; relating to publication of bullying polices.

Minutes Content for Thu, Feb 8, 2018

Chairperson Aurand opened the hearing on HB2578.

Revisor Zach Fridell gave a summary of the bill that would require school districts to publish bullying policies on the home page of their websites and annually distribute a copy of the plan to families.  (Attachment 10)

Liz Hamor testified in support of the bill and shared statistics from Wichita USD259 that showed in the year 2016-2017 there were 1,020 situations where students spoke of harming themselves that led to suicide protocols being implemented.  These situations often resulted from bullying.  She shared a bullying situation she had been involved in as an advocate for a student.  She stated that bullying is an increasingly serious problem that many schools do not take seriously, and this bill would be a step in the right direction. (Attachment 11)

Cortnie Killen spoke in support and shared the story of a 13-year-old who was being bullied and attempted suicide several times.  She observed school officials letting this child stay home for the rest of the year rather than deal directly with the bullying situation.  As a mental health professional, she urged the Committee to post bullying guidelines to help schools become safer places for all students. (Attachment 12)

Austin Shively testified as a proponent.  He stated that he has been a firsthand witness to "identify exploitation" or "bullying."  One of his high school friends was bullied about her Jewish heritage and it changed her personality and behavior.  She retreated socially and became scarred from the experience.  Three teenagers from Olathe Northwest have committed suicide in the past four years.  (Attachment 13)

Lindsay Buck testified in favor of this bill.  She explained that students thrive in environments that offer transparency and consistency and that is why publication and visibility of bullying policies would be beneficial for schools.  (Attachment 14)

Dr. Walt Chappell testified as a proponent of the bill but would like to see it improved.  He shared information about SB278 from 2012 that had a more comprehensive anti-bullying plan and suggested it be amended to the present bill.  In support of this he shared statistics and documents that outline ideas for increasing accountability among teachers and administrators for reporting and responding to bullying.  (Attachment 15) (Attachment 16) (Attachment 17) (Attachment 18) (Attachment 19) (Attachment 20)

There were questions asked and a brief discussion among the Representatives.

Mark Tallman testified that Kansas Association of School Boards is neutral on this bill because it does not appear to be either supported or opposed under positions adopted by their members. He noted that our society has changed so much over the last few decades, and there are many social forces that are getting worse all the time.  He believes there are deeper social problems that schools are now being asked to address.  School administrators and boards want schools to be safe for all students.  (Attachment 21)

The Chairperson closed the hearing on HB2578.

The Committee was adjourned at 5:08.