Melanie says her teenaged son suffers from nerve damage as a result of being bullied repeatedly while attending the Perry Township schools in Stark County. She feared for her son's safety and felt she had no choice but to remove him from school and have him educated at home.
"I saw him go from this really happy, lots of self-esteem, honor roll, basketball team kid to being too fearful to go to school. He didn't feel safe," she said.
She wishes House Bill 360 was around to help her son.
"We wouldn't be where we are today, if this bill would have been in place," she said.
State Rep. David Greenspan, of Westlake, is sponsoring HB 360, which details a series of consequences for harassment, intimidation or bullying in the schools.
"We need to make sure schools are safe so students can reach their educational potential," Greenspan said.
The bill, which is working its way through the House, calls for the following:
- Mandatory community service for students suspended or expelled for bullying, intimidation, or harassment
- Tutoring and academic support provided by schools for suspended or expelled students for such offenses
- Counseling services for students suspended or expelled for such offenses and for victims of bullying, harassment or intimidation
- Suspension for up to ten days for the first offense and expulsion for up to 182 days for the second offense in the same calendar year
Greenspan says schools would be required to investigate allegations of bullying. All schools would be given the opportunity to deal with the first offense. But if the bad behavior continues and the second offense is committed, then the provisions of HB 360 would kick in.
"We want to make make sure our educational institutions are free from bullying, harassment or intimidation," Greenspan said.
Kari says she too wishes the legislation would have bee introduced to help save her teenaged brother, who committed suicide while attending Perry Township High School. Kari says her brother was bullied by both students and a coach.
"I think it made him feel very low, not wanted and worthless," she said.
Greenspan believes the bill is the most comprehensive of its kind in the country. He says it addresses student to student bullying. Student to adult, and adult to student.
"What we really want is for schools to work with the student to change behavior," he said.
Greenspan is optimistic about the bill's chances of passing the House in the weeks ahead.
Melanie says bullying is only getting worse and reforms are needed. She became teary-eyed when she reflected on what happened to her son.
"I was lucky enough to get him out in time. I felt like he was drowning."