Earlier this week, Nebraska’s Lincoln Journal Star reported about a flier sent home with fifth grade students that offered questionable advice for “turning bullies into buddies.” Lincoln officials have apologized, saying that the flier doesn’t reflect actual district policy and offering their own “facts about bullying.”
The flier, whose advice includes “do not tell on bullies,” is indeed problematic, but it’s district policy in Lincoln (see Policy 5482, pg. 130) and state policy in Nebraska that offer real cause for concern. Neither employs the bullying and harassment prevention strategies that have proven most effective. In fact, only sixteen states and the District of Columbia have in place laws that enumerate specific categories of targeted students, “underscore[ing] those students who research shows are most likely to be bullied and harassed and least likely to be protected.”
We must remain engaged in safe schools advocacy at the state and local level, and we must work toward a federal baseline that holds all states, including Nebraska, accountable. It starts with the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), which supports the creation of enumerated anti-bullying policies that include data collection, public education, and grievance procedures. It continues with the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which protects students from school-based sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, much like Title IX does for gender discrimination, and much like other areas of law do for various protected classes; recognizes bullying and harassment as discrimination; and provides remedies against discrimination and incentives for schools to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Check out PFAW’s policy toolkit: Education Without Discrimination: Creating Safe Schools for All Students to learn more about SSIA and SNDA and how you can raise safe schools awareness.