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Anti-bullying bill- House roadblock puts stop to it

March 28, 2012

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A last-ditch attempt Tuesday by Democrats to revive a bill that would require teachers and administrators to identify and crack down on students who harass and threaten their classmates was beaten back in the House, a move that likely ends any chance of bolstering anti-bullying policies in public schools this year.
The legislation, which was amended extensively before clearing the Senate earlier this month, has been held up ever since in the House by Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, chairman of the House Education Committee.
Frustrated with the roadblock, Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise, tried a parliamentary maneuver intended to yank the bill from the Education Committee and bring it straight to the full House for debate.
Cronin made his case for the bill by sharing his own frustration with bullying, telling lawmakers how his daughter has been harassed in school.
"I am standing up for children all across this state who dread going to school each day. Who go to school in fear," Cronin said. "This bill deserves to be heard, and I feel as though we've exhausted every other option."
Nonini, who is running for the Idaho Senate this fall, claimed schools already have policies in place to deal with bullies. He also argued against the parliamentary maneuver, saying it would circumvent the power and discretion afforded committees and chairmen.
"I believe the best place for that Senate bill to sit right now is in the Education Committee," Nonini said.
The House voted 48-21 to defeat Cronin's request. Eight Republicans sided with Democrats to bring the bill to the floor.
The version approved by the Senate would require educators to undergo training on bullying and to intervene if they witness a student being harassed. It would also make schools responsible for monitoring and diffusing bullying at any school function and in cyberbullying cases that threaten a student's learning environment.
But the plan — a final legislative effort by outgoing Boise Democratic Sen. Nicole LeFavour — was beset by challenges from the beginning, with opponents protesting that professional development mandates could create a financial burden for the state's 115 school districts.
Challengers had also worried that a directive to crack down on bullying may be inappropriate for homeschool settings, prompting lawmakers to attach specific exemptions for homeschool students.
Lawmakers also questioned whether they were burdening educators with an issue that might not be that big of a problem in Idaho.
"I would suggest that this bill may not be necessary," Rep. Steve Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, said Tuesday in arguing against the measure.
Disappointed by the lack of support in the House, LeFavour urged dubious lawmakers to reach out to the students who testified for the plan.
"I can't imagine anybody opposing the need for stronger anti-bullying legislation in the state," LeFavour said. "The state Department of Education gets at least one call a week from parents at the end of their rope because their school isn't doing enough."

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