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Cyberbullying bill authored by Cullen advances

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
March 8, 2012
— A bill designed to encourage schools to get tough on cyberbullying passed out of the Senate education committee Wednesday.

Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville, the bill's author, is now seeking a floor vote. The bill would need to pass the Senate and the Assembly by the end of the current legislative session Thursday, March 15, to go to the governor's desk.


Rep. Joe Knilans, R-Janesville, has introduced a companion bill in the Assembly.


Cyberbullying is common in local schools, officials have said. It includes sending harassing or threatening messages or images via email, cellphone and social networking sites.


Cullen's proposal, Senate Bill 427, states that when cyberbullying occurs off school grounds, it remains subject to school discipline, if such incidents create problems at school.


Case law already gives schools the power to impose sanctions for bullying that occurs off campus, but putting that authority into law would provide needed clarity on the issue for school officials, according to a cyberbullying expert who worked with Cullen on the bill.


The bill also would require the state to develop a model school policy. Schools would not be required to adopt the model policy, although many districts adopt the state's model school policies.


The model policy would require school districts that adopt it to prepare an annual report, present the report to the school board and post it to the district's website.


The bills seeks to bolster a 2010 anti-bullying law already on the books. That law was introduced by Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn. Kedzie's bill was introduced in several legislative sessions before it became law.


The Janesville School District already complies with the bill's provisions, said Yolanda Cargile, the district's director of multicultural and at-risk programs. Cargile submitted testimony in favor of the bill.



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