SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

December 16, 2010

School board members blast state bully law

PEABODY — School Committee members and the mayor blasted the state's new anti-bullying law Tuesday during a discussion about whether to accept a new policy on bullying.

"This goes way beyond the scope of what I think is appropriate, and because of that I will be voting against this," member Jarrod Hochman said before casting the lone vote against adopting the district's new policy.

The state law — passed in May in response to a series of recent teen suicides resulting from unrelenting bullying — forces Peabody to draft and adopt an anti-bullying policy. The law has several mandates on reporting, investigating, and teaching students and teachers about bullying prevention.

However well-intended, the state law creates more work for administrators, costs too much money and is ultimately ineffective, according to several members of the School Committee.

"When we finish the autopsy on public education as we know it — which looks like not too many years from now — it will be the case of death by 1,000 paper cuts," member David McGeney said. "All of this is nonsense."

The new law, McGeney continued, "will increase the number of (bullying) reports, increase the number of lawsuits, increase the time staff spends trying to implement the guidelines, but I don't think it will increase the safety of students in a school district with a competent administration."

Mayor Michael Bonfanti said he shared those sentiments.

"Here we are in a period of diminishing resources, and we're putting resources in an area we don't need," he said. "The thing that is killing education are all of these unfunded mandates. We cannot keep doing these things."

The main concerns are how much time and money will be spent on filing bullying reports, mandated teacher trainings and classroom time devoted to bullying prevention.

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