“The shot heard round the world” is a phrase that has come to represent several historical incidents amongst them is the Revolutionary War. However, the line is originally taken from the opening stanza of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Concord Hymn. Since then, the phrase has also been used to make reference to the importance of a single action.
Two hundred and thirty three years later (September 15, 2008) the shot heard round the world was the end of my family as I knew it. It was the death of my youngest son, and the start of my grief journey. It was the start of B.R.A.V.E. It was the start of my mission to create legislative change within the state of California, on both a local and national level. That shot was the start of our mission, our commitment, our purpose. We are determined to bring peer abuse awareness to our schools, to our educators, to our parents, to our students, to our communities.
Prior to my son’s peer abuse driven bullycide I was completely uninformed regarding educational legislation better known as the Ed code. It wasn’t until late one night when I discovered Bully Police that I became aware of the Bullying Prevention for School Safety and Crime Reduction Act of 2003 or better known as SB 719. I started reading our laws and comparing them to other states that had higher ratings than us. It soon became apparent that a lot could be changed, and or accomplished by simply updating our law, keeping it simple if you will, in much the same way New Jersey did with their landmark 2010 Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Legislation.
In our quest to create and make effective legislative changes I have emailed, called, written, and showed up to our various legislative offices. I would love to say that every call was returned, every email was answered, every letter was responded to, and every drop in was met with professional courtesy. However, that would be untrue and to simple. Instead our legislators both locally and nationally ignored us, and our efforts. It wasn’t until several other children died by peer abuse driven bullycide that our national conscience got the better of us, and everyone jumped on the band wagon, by that time two years had passed since that fatal “shot heard around the world” on September 15, 2008.
2001 Cal. Stats., A.B. 79, Chap. 646 Requires the Department of Education to develop model policies on the prevention of bullying and on conflict resolution, makes the model policies available to school districts and authorizes school districts to adopt one or both policies for incorporation into the school safety plan.
SB 719 (Bullying Prevention for School Safety and Crime Reduction Act of 2003); Chapter 828. ab_86_bill_20080930_chaptered
A. B. 86, 2008 Code §32261 (g) Lieu. Pupil safety. Gives school officials grounds to suspend a pupil or recommend a pupil for expulsion for bullying, including, but not limited to, bullying by electronic act.
As a result of so many needless deaths our legislators both locally and nationally have been frantically playing keep up in the hopes of creating legislation that will in fact protect our children while in the care of their school. Currently, in the state of California there are several different bills that I am aware of (meaning there could be more) pending votes. Before I get into each bill I would like to point that none of them are an Anti-Bullying or Peer Abuse Awareness Bill.
Senate Bill 48, Introduced By Senator Leno on December 13, 2010 – This bill is known as the FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful) Education Act, adds the LGBT community to the existing list of under-represented cultural and ethnic groups already listed in the state’s inclusionary education requirements.Senator Leno’s bill was modeled on Senate Bill 1437 (Kuehl) from 2006, which passed both houses of the Legislature, but was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. sb_48_bill_20101213_introduced
Senate Bill 9, Introduced by Assemblyman Ammiano on March 10, 2011 – this is a good start with the potential to be an excellent bill if stronger safeguards are added to it. I have added a few of my personal recommendations (these are not all the changes I would like to see). Simply put, it does not go far enough to ensure the safety and well-being of our children. The word “bullying” must be used in the text of the bill/law/statutes, It will be noted that a victim may experience either physical or emotion harm. There must be a place for “advocates” to be empowered to assist parents and victims in meeting with the site principal and/or school board/superintendent of schools. We need this one so that we can legally become part of the advocacy. Hopefully, this will be easy since the Special Education lobby already had this in their laws. The law must clearly be an anti-bullying law, not a school safety law. The present school safety law simply cannot be modified to meet the needs of peer abuse. Furthermore the reporting needs to be accountable such as reporting to lawmakers and the State Education Superintendent, as well as annual reports on peer abuse from each school – those reports must be submitted directly to the state education commission and each school should be graded on how it handles peer abuse, harassment and intimidation (bullying). ab_9_bill_20101206_introduced
Senate Bill 453, Introduced by Senator Correa on March 10, 2011 -Pupil rights: bullying. Existing law prohibits the suspension of a pupil from school or the recommendation of a pupil for expulsion from school unless a school district superintendent or the principal of the school in which the pupil is enrolled determines that the pupil has committed any of several specified acts, among which is having engaged in an act of bullying. For the purposes of this provision, bullying is defined to include an act of sexual harassment or hate violence, or threats or intimidation directed against school pupils or personnel, and to include bullying committed by electronic means, as defined. This bill would express the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would ensure that appropriate actions are taken and reporting requirements are implemented for public elementary and secondary school pupils who are facing possible suspension or expulsion as a result of alleged incidents of bullying, as defined.
As I read and re-read these newly submitted bills it is always with the eye of a grieving mother as hard as I try to be impartial there are certain key phrases that simply jump off the page and shred my soul. I want accountability, parents have the right to know what kind of peer abuse problems schools have. I want consequences when school personnel fail to report and respond to peer abuse, much in the same way managers are held personally liable if they fail to report and respond to the charge of sexual harassment in the work place for example. I want protection for our children, it is a fundamental right, and it’s a core responsibility. I want other people’s children to be safe in a way that mine was not, and finally I don’t want another family to have to face a shot heard around the world that creates a tsunami of change, devastation, and destruction. Michael’s death has left us hurt, altered, shattered, and damaged. It is our goal to be the change that we want to see,and to defeat peer abuse driven bullycide, and any legislation that moves that goal forward has my support.