A Look at Florida Schools: What is “bullying”?

A Look at Florida School’s: What is “Bullying”?

In 2008 the “Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up For All Students Act” was signed into law. This bill was named after bullying victim Jeffrey Johnston, who took his own life in 2005 following three years of cyberbullying by a classmate. His mother, a Florida elementary school teacher, became a strong advocate for legislation against bullying and cyber bullying under Florida law.

In 2012, according to public schools, bullying was defined by three criteria:
1) An imbalance of power or a perceived imbalance of power
2) An intent to cause harm or distress
3) Repeated harassment over time

Possibly the third reason- specifically the word “repeated”- might be why Florida reports about three percent of students as ever bullied, but the National Center for Education Statistics reports 31 percent of students nationwide saying that they are bullied.

This statistic could be due to the different definitions by different individuals. It could be that students exaggerate. It also could be that Florida schools might not always take the stand that they could (or should) be taking to attempt to hinder bullying in the school system.

Though in 2013, they tried again. House Bill 609 entitled “Bullying in the Public School System” was unanimously passed through both various committees, the House Floor, and the Senate floor, before being signed into law by Governor Rick Scott. This bill “prohibits bullying or harassment with respect to computer-related activities; provides that bullying includes cyberbullying; revises components of school district policy on bullying and harassment”.

In short, this bill creates stricter laws against bullying, intended to assist students like Jeffrey Johnston, Shayne Ijames, and countless other victims of bullying and “bullycide” (suicide due to continued bullying).

But does the legislation help? In 2014 another statute was passed, this one reinforcing the “Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up For All Students Act”. 2014 was also the year that 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick killed herself after being “absolutely terrorized” by other girls before hurling herself to her death.
Much support can be seen from the additional implementation of bullying prevention programs. Work like that which Live Free Be Strong does, as well as groups like The Humanity Project and The Suicide Hotline, can be additional proactive bullying prevention tools. These tools, and the fact that the law IS on the side of students, are things that should not be forgotten.

The full bill can be found at the link below:

http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2013/0609