Parents worried politics will get in way of anti-bully bill - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Parents worried politics will get in way of anti-bully bill

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

As new anti-bullying law makes its way through the Tennessee Legislature, parents of children Who have been victimized, are worried politics may get in the way of passing an effective law.

It's a law that would require a plan of action from school systems. The wording is very specific, but there is a chance another bill could take its place.

School is a place to learn and grow, but for some students it's a constant source of anxiety and stress because of bullying.

"For a long time I cried every night because it hurts so bad to watch your child come home and say, 'All I want to do is kill myself,'" said Veronica Castillo, whose daughter was bullied.

VIEW: Tennessee House Bill 0927
VIEW: Tennessee House Bill 2122


Castillo said her 11-year-old daughter is bullied mercilessly for her appearance. She said reporting the bullies to the teachers and principals did not do any good. She says the bullies were never punished.

Castillo finally had to get a lawyer involved to get her daughter moved to another school.

"It's a serious matter," she said. "Bullying is serious because it causes long term psychological effects."
    
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Castillo supports the bill moving through the Legislature that would require school systems to make a plan to combat bullying and revisit that plan at least every three years.

Michelle Bliss with the Tennessee Equality Project helped write the anti-bullying bill. Her son has Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism. She now home schools her son.

"When you take your child to school and you drop them off you're trusting these adults are going to protect them," Bliss said. "I think it's a real breach of trust."

The current language of the bill goes into detail of what is considered bullying, including students targeted for their appearance, a disability, and sexual orientation and gender expression.

But State Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) of East Memphis has his own bill (HB 2122), that takes out all the specific definitions of bullying.

"Apparently there's some people in the Tennessee Legislature who would rather put forward a vague, toothless bill that doesn't protect really any children, rather than put forward a bill that might protect a gay kid," Bliss said.

Rep. White said defining bullying should be left to the school districts

"If you define that bullying is someone's expression of their gender identity, then you set up a situation where it may not be bullying from another person," Rep. White said. "They may have another set of standards."

A comprehensive study of bullying in the State of Tennessee in 2013 revealed more than 5,000 reported cases.
    
Both Castillo and Bliss agree that enough is enough and it's time for legislation.

"It needs to be enacted and policies need to be put in place because now there's nothing," Castillo said. "There are not clearly defined policies as what to do with bullies."

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