Nevada lawmakers are considering a proposal from Gov. Brian Sandoval that would implement a broad anti-bullying program throughout state schools and impose discipline on teachers and administrators who don’t do enough to report and prevent it.
The Senate and Assembly education committees held a joint hearing Tuesday to consider SB504. Supporters who gave tearful testimony included the mothers of two sixth-grade boys who said they were bullied mercilessly in their southern Nevada school and Jason Lamberth, who said bullying led to his 13-year-old daughter Hailee’s suicide in 2013.
“You’ve experienced the unimaginable,” said Republican Sen. Becky Harris, her voice breaking after the stories. “We’re going to help you find solutions.”
The bill would create an Office for a Safe and Respectful Learning Environment within the Nevada Department of Education, which would conduct training for educators on how to recognize and intervene in bullying situations. It would also create a 24-hour hotline and a website through which students could submit bullying complaints.
In his budget proposal, Sandoval called for allocating $36 million over the next two years with the goal of hiring one school social worker for every 250 students.
SB504 deals with the policy portion of the plan, while the funding portion will be considered separately in a money committee.
The measure would also strengthen reporting rules, requiring administrators to notify parents of bullying incidents before the end of the next school day and complete an investigation within 48 hours of a reported bullying incident. Lamberth testified that he wasn’t notified his daughter was being bullied and couldn’t intervene before her suicide.
Presenters described the bill as an opportunity for Nevada to lead out on anti-bullying initiatives.
“Nevada is poised, with SB504, to be a national leader in bullying laws,” said Joe Reynolds, deputy chief counsel for the governor. “This bill should not be a goal, but a mandate.”