Pittman calls for better bullying policy in schools

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 25-Aug-2010

State Rep. Anastasia A. Pittman said yesterday (Tuesday, August 24) that tougher school policies against bullying need to be enacted to protect individuals like Ty Fields, a young man who, according to this family and some news accounts, committed suicide after being bullied at school.

“My heart goes out to Ty and his family,” Pittman, an Oklahoma City Democrat, said. “I cannot imagine the heartache that such a tragedy creates, the loss of an 11-year-old who had been bullied to the point that he felt the need to take his own life.”

Pittman is known as a strong advocate of education reform, better school policies and attention to the needs of children.

According to Pittman, there have been a number of bullying incidents in her local school district. She believes that it is a very serious problem.

“Our job is to protect these students and foster an environment where they can learn and grow,” Pittman said. “They should not have to balance threats and peer pressure to the point that they feel invisible or worthless.”

Pittman plans to develop and reintroduce House Bill 1636 in the upcoming session. This bill would allow administrators to document the first, second and third bullying offenses and require teachers to do a follow-up in 30 days in addition to making that information available for inclusion in transfers.

Pittman reports that she has received several calls at the start of the school year about children who do not want to return because of bullying problems.

“Currently, the Oklahoma City school district’s bullying policy is for each school to create their own,” Pittman said. “The individual school policies often lack teeth and there are problems associated with transfers from one school to another.”

Pittman expressed concern that too often teachers and principals are not adequately notified of the type of student they are receiving. Some teachers and school administrators may be unaware of a bully with prior incidents being transferred to their school.

Pittman said she knew of a girl who had been transferred to a high school in her district and then harassed another young girl at the school, sending as many as 43 threatening text messages in one day. The student had reported the problem to school staff, but nothing was done.

“The bully confronted the other girl and both were suspended,” Pittman said. “The father of the second girl even made her apologize to the bully, because he did not know the full story. Her mother was appalled that she was unable to find any help in escaping the bully and was herself punished.”

School districts statewide reported 259 cases of bullying of students that resulted in physical injury and 10,537 incidents without injury. Districts also reported the 1,431 cases of bullying teachers or staff.

“Public education is a service provided to our children and should never be the place where they are instead intimidated and harassed,” Pittman said. “We must add teeth to school policies through statute.”