Editorial: Lawmakers should pass common-sense anti-bullying bill

A bill in the legislature this session has the potential to improve education in Indiana for students, parents, teachers and school officials. House Bill 1483, which passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, would put teeth in Indiana’s anti-bullying law and provide needed protections for students who are bullied.

Among other things, HB 1483 would:

  • Require school corporations to prioritize the safety of a bullying victim.
  • Require a school corporation to report an act of bullying to the victim’s parents within three business days and notify the parents of the alleged bully within five business days.
  • Require school corporations to determine the severity of a bullying incident, and whether the incident warrants transferring the victim or the alleged bully to another school.
  • In cases where bullying is determined to be severe, require the school corporation to transfer either the victim or the bully to another school.

Of course, no single piece of legislation will eliminate bullying. However, this legislation would cultivate cultures of responsibility in schools statewide. Bullying cases would be handled expeditiously with clear rules for notifying parents and taking decisive action.

Incredibly, our state’s anti-bullying laws do not state that the safety of bullying victims will be the school’s priority. That is just one way Indiana’s laws lack student protections, school accountability requirements and enforcement mechanisms.

While HB 1483 passed the House by a 92-1 vote, it has yet to be scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee, but we hope to see it advancing soon. That would be a welcome change from bills detrimental to public schools that we have opposed as they advanced in the General Assembly. For instance, we’ve criticized bills that propose to ban books, prevent teachers or librarians from doing their jobs, and target trans kids, among others. We believe proposals like those are misguided and harm public education in Indiana.

Every child has a right to an education, and no child should live in fear of a bully. We believe teachers, librarians and school officials should have our gratitude, but we also believe our lawmakers should have their backs. Passing this bill is one simple way lawmakers could demonstrate they do.

Furthermore, data also shows this legislation is sorely needed. In 2022, there were 5,103 confirmed bullying incidents statewide, according to the Indiana Department of Education. Disturbingly, about 32% of those cases — 1,616 — were physical incidents. That number is the highest since 2014, the first year that the state required school districts to report confirmed bullying cases. The spike in physical bullying cases last year is startling: Just 620 such cases were confirmed in 2018.

We urge the Senate to pass this common-sense legislation. It’s rare that we see a bill that so clearly could make such a positive difference in the lives of students, teachers, parents and schools. Delivering this bill to the desk of Gov. Eric Holcomb also would show that Indiana takes bullying seriously, that it will not be tolerated in public schools, and that there will be consequences for such bad behavior.