At least two Indiana school districts face federal lawsuits claiming they didn’t do enough to protect students from bullying. Meanwhile, anti-bullying advocates in the state are pushing for stronger laws.
“It’s a good law, but I think now that six years has passed we need a stronger law,” she says.
Stagge says Indiana needs a statewide policy with more consequences for bullies, and even their parents, especially for repeat offenders or if victims attempt suicide.
Some ideas she’s hoping to include in a bill for the 2020 legislative session would create fines for parents of repeat bullies, create a uniform bullying policy for schools across the state, and send any money collected through bullying fines to support counseling services.
She says schools need to focus more on mental health because it’s directly tied to school safety – a topic policymakers, state officials, and the governor have focused on heavily since the Noblesville school shooting last year. Stagge says school fights and cases of bullying and hazing can lead victimized kids to harm others more severely.
“Something definitely has to be implemented in school safety for all of that,” she says.
The Indiana Department of Education has focused on improving the way schools report bullying cases, and has told schools to report any case that could be considered bullying. But the data is still spotty; many schools said in an IDOE survey last fall, that the definition of bullying causes confusion on when to report cases.
Stagge says she and a group of anti-bullying advoactes are working to draft the legislation in upcoming weeks, to bring to lawmakers once the proposal is more concrete.