Bullying and free speech: Trampling on the Constitution or addressing the problem

By Kirsten Bokenkamp
Senior Communications Strategist

Did you know that, according to a recent survey, only 32 percent of Texas students who reported incidents of school bullying felt school officials intervened effectively?  Bullying continues to be a problem throughout Texas, and we are happy to see that districts across the state, from Tyler to El Paso are responding: By educating students and parents; creating positive school environments; tracking bullying; and ensuring school administrators take action.

Indeed, under Texas law, school districts are required to prohibit bullying in their student codes of conducts, and to enforce those prohibitions.   Too often, though, students have found that their reports of bullying fall on deaf ears of school officials.  Sometimes school officials actually blame the victims.  This is unacceptable.

All school districts should have a transparent policy that includes procedures for reporting, investigating, and responding to bullying on their campuses.  Furthermore, school officials must be held accountable if they ignore bullying on their campuses.

While reducing bullying is of utmost important, El Paso school officials are correct when they say what happens online after school hours in the students homes is not really in their jurisdiction.  We agree! Just think about it – If school officials are allowed to monitor off-school speech, where does it stop?

The bottom line: To stop bullying we must hold school officials accountable and also create positive and safe school environments.  Building a community of understanding, through education and positive intervention, and setting up policies for swift response to school bullying is the best answer.

2 thoughts on “Bullying and free speech: Trampling on the Constitution or addressing the problem”

  1. Can anyone tell me precisely what programs the public schools in Texas are most often using to counter bullying? For example, in the state of California there is the No Bully campaign (nobully.com), which offers training for teachers, as well as assistance to administrators in designing and implementing effective anti-bullying policies and programs. I have been searching for an equivalent in Texas, but have discovered nothing so far. So what programs are the Texas schools using, or is each school simply left to design a program of their own?

  2. Thank you for your question. One of the more successful programs used in Texas schools to address bullying is PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports). It is an evidence-based model that, in addition to reducing ticketing, suspensions, and expulsions, has also reduced instances of bullying. It does so by creating a more positive, tolerant campus. There is not a specific state mandated program in Texas, but HB 1942 from the 2011 legislative session does require the Texas State Board of Education to include in its next review of state health TEKS a curriculum that raises awareness and addresses prevention of bullying.

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