Posted by Maria Mangicaro
Originally posted here.
LAKELAND, FL: The State of Florida has one of the best written and most comprehensive anti-bullying laws in the nation. In 2008, Florida’s legislature unanimously passed the “Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act” (Fl. Stat. section 1006.147), and it was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist on June 10, 2008.
Named after bully victim Jeffrey Johnston, the law requires every Florida school to develop anti-bullying policies that include punishment and counseling for students who bully their peers. In 2005, Jeffrey killed himself after enduring three years of bullying via the internet and phone by a classmate. After his death, Jeffrey’s mother Debbie, herself a Florida elementary school teacher, became a strong advocate for state legislation to prohibit bullying and cyber-bullying under Florida law. She led an effort spanning three years to get anti-bullying legislation passed in Florida.
In a further effort to call attention to bullying being escalated by electronic devices, earlier this year Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill (HB 609), expanding the scope of the law to include “cyberbullying”. Under the July 1st, revisions, school administrators now have the authority to reach beyond school grounds. If cyberbullying “substantially” interferes with or disrupts the educational process, administrators may now regulate and punish it — even when it originates on a computer or device off campus.
State Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, sponsored the legislation. Sen. Bullard was motivated by how technology can be used to spread hateful and damaging messages, as well as embarrassing photos and images. Bullard has seen students’ reputations and self-esteem suffer when nude photos circulate, and he said there is a need to address the new dynamic of bullying. “You want something that is broad enough to deal with those technologies, and I think the bill does that,” he said.