Senator proposes parent notification of bullying | News, Sports, Jobs

Rep. Jennifer O’Mara, D-Delaware, speaks during a March news conference supporting food programs on college campuses.

Add Pennsylvania to the list of states discussing legislation to require parental notification if their child is bullied in school.

The debate over whether parents should be told by the school about bullying incidents has been happening in states around the country for years.

Senate Bill 2488, sponsored by Democrat Jennifer O’Mara of Delaware County, amends the state Public School Code to include language requiring notice for parents and legal guardians if a child is involved in a bullying incident. That requirement would have to be part of each school’s code of student conduct.

“Pennsylvania law requires schools to develop a comprehensive plan to address bullying,” O’Mara wrote in her legislative memorandum. “And while some schools do notify parents as part of their plan, the law does not require this. As such, many parents are left in the dark when their child is involved in a school bullying incident. That is why I am introducing legislation that would require schools to notify parents and legal guardians when their child is involved in or experiences bullying. Parents have both the right and responsibility to ensure their children are receiving the resources they need to overcome challenges, correct behavior, and improve their children’s mental and physical health.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy earlier this year signed legislation, Mallory’s Law, that overhauls the state’s anti-bullying statutes, including allowing parents to initiate investigations by filing tickets with school officials, who then have deadlines by which they have to respond. Parents and school officials at local, county and state levels will be notified if a ticket is submitted.

In New York, Sen. James Tedisco, R-Clifton Park, has backed legislation titled Jacobe’s Law that would also require parental notification when a child is bullied.

New York passed its Dignity for All Students Act in 2012 to address bullying. Although schools are required to report incidents to the state Education Department, the Dignity for All Students Act does not require schools to alert parents when their child has been bullied or is believed to be the perpetrators of bullying. Rather, the law currently leaves it up to each school district to decide whether they will notify parents of children involved in an incident of bullying.

“No child should have to experience bullying in or out of school,” Tedisco said in a 2021 Facebook post regarding Jacobe’s Law. “Schools should make parents aware of threats of violence to their children so that a parent or guardian can take action they deem appropriate and have input on decisions of how best to protect their child’s safety and emotional well-being. If the statistics and incidences of bullying are important enough to report to bureaucrats at State Ed, then they are important enough to expeditiously make the parents who are directly impacted by what’s going on with their children aware of to intervene and potentially avert a tragedy.”

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