Bully Law

LFDA Editor

In Brief: 

  • New Hampshire's Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act requires school boards to adopt policies that address bullying.
  • An revision of the law in 2010 expanded the definition of bullying to include off-campus incidents, such as cyberbullying.
  • Debate continues as to whether the state’s bullying law should be expanded or whether its inclusion of off-campus incidents constitutes overreach.
  • Pro: Incidents that occur online or off school property can interfere with a student’s educational opportunities, and should be included in the definition of bullying.
  • Con: Schools should only be responsible for what happens on school grounds, and the definition of bullying should reflect that. 

Issue Facts: 

In 2000 the Legislature passed the Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act. The law requires each local school board to adopt a pupil safety and violence prevention policy which addresses bullying.

HB 1523, from the 2010 legislative session, revised the law to include a clearer definition of bullying and cyber-bullying. Then-Gov. John Lynch signed the bill June 15, 2010.  

HB 1523 later was criticized for expanding the definition of bullying to include incidents that occur off school property, provided that "the conduct interferes with a pupil's educational opportunities or substantially disrupts the orderly operations of the school." 

report released by the U.S. Department of Education in December 2011 compared New Hampshire's bullying law favorably to other states' laws. Nonetheless, some educators, parents and students believe the law isn't strict enough, while others argue the law is overreaching.

PROS & CONS

"For" Position

"Bullying should continue to encompass activities online and/or off school grounds." 

  • Cell phones and the internet have made the geographic location of bullying obsolete.
  • Teachers aware of bullying off school grounds still have a duty to protect their students.

"Against" Position

"Bullying should be limited to incidents that take place on school grounds."  

  • Schools should only be responsible for what happens on school grounds. 

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Killed in the House

Permits individuals to sue schools under the state anti-bullying law.

Killed in the Senate

Reverses the expanded definition of bullying in the Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act.

Signed by Governor

Revises the New Hampshire bully law to include a clearer definition of bullying and cyber-bulling.

Was NH right to revise the Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act to hold schools responsible for activities online and/or off school grounds?

Comments

Sharon Ponchak
- Hampton

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 2:47pm

This is definately a hard question.  While I don't think it is totally the school's responsibility to catch all the bullying that goes on, I do think that they have the best chance and have the most knowledge of what is going on at a school.  I was a teacher's aide and have done some substitute teaching and I do think teachers and other school officials have much more insight into what is going on and which students are responsible. Bullying is such a terrible and hurtful crime to children, I would think anyone who can help in anyway should help.  Having said all this, I don't know if we can hold school officials completely responsible since there are many times they too are unaware of what is going on.  In general, I think the community has to work together on his issue but if there is evidence that school officials had knowledge and did nothing, I think they should be held accountable.

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Issue Status

Rep. Rebecca McBeath (D-Portsmouth) was the primary sponsor of HB 1485, a 2016 bill that would allow students to sue schools under the Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act.  That bill was in response to a NH Supreme Court ruling that said students cannot sue schools for failing to notify parents about alleged bullying incidents.  The House killed HB 1485 in February 2016.

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