It is no secret that the bullying is becoming a big problem in schools across the country. In 2007, almost a third of students aged 12-18 said they had been bullied at school according to the National Center for Education Statistics. These numbers are alarming to Illinois lawmakers. They are trying to put a stop to the rising trend of bullying in schools by implementing anti-bullying statutes and conducting research into why bullying occurs. Definition of bullying Bullying in Illinois is defined as any severe or persistent physical or verbal behavior or written communications that is directed at another student and could be reasonably foreseen to have one of the following effects on the student:
- Fear of physical harm or harm to personal property.
- Considerable interference with academic performance.
- Substantial decline in physical or mental health.
- Hindrance of participation in activities, services and privileges at school.
In an effort to more clearly define bullying, this explanation was included in the Prevent Student Violence Act that was enacted on June 28, 2010. Illinois Anti-Bullying Statute requirements The Illinois Anti-Bullying Statute was enacted on June 26, 2006 in an effort to raise awareness of bullying and hold schools to a higher standard when dealing with the problem. The General Assembly reported that bullying has the potential to interfere with many facets of a student’s life including inhibiting his or her ability to learn and leading to other undesirable behaviors such as fighting, alcohol and drug use and shoplifting. The law set forth guidelines for schools to follow and stated that courses in bullying prevention should be included in all grades. In 2007, the Illinois Anti-Bullying Statute was amended to ensure that each school district was doing its part to prevent bullying. The amendment requires school districts to come up with a bullying policy and file it with the State Board of Education. The policy needs to be updated every two years. Every year, schools are required to notify students, parents and guardians about the policy. School Bullying Prevention Task Force In order to effectively address the issues surrounding bullying, the Illinois Prevent Student Violence Act set up a task force to investigate the causes and effects of bullying in schools. It was also charged with finding techniques and practices to reduce and address bullying. The task force, which was composed of representatives from advocacy groups and state agencies, administrators, teachers, high school students and researchers, completed its investigation and submitted its recommendations. Among the task force recommendations was to require anti-bullying policies to specify procedures on handling the reporting and investigation of bullying in each school district. Districts would also be held responsible for sending information on bullying allegations to the Illinois State Board of Education.