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Indiana lawmakers get tough on schools reporting zero bullies

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Lawmakers took a clear stance Monday on bullying at Indiana schools.

The House of Representatives by a vote of 87-3 passed sweeping legislation that takes stronger aim at how bullying is reported statewide.

State Rep. Gregory Porter, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said, “We can’t continue to put our head in the sand when it comes to bullying.”

Porter said school districts by law are required to report bullying cases, and many districts do, but he said the reporting just isn’t good enough. According to Indiana Department of Education data for the 2016-17 school year, dozens of schools statewide reported zero bullying incidents.

Porter said, “There’s no way that’s going to happen. It happens every day, in every school … there’s some type of bullying.”

Porter said he thinks there might be some school corporations that just aren’t reporting it “because they think it may affect their report card or their funding,” Porter said.

Porter said his bill isn’t meant to punish school districts, but remind them, via the Department of Education, what bullying is and send information to schools stating they must report bullying.

“Then, when the numbers come through, they would help school corporations rectify to see if the numbers are right,” Porter said.

Porter said under his bill, the Department of Education could audit school districts to make sure they were reporting bullying accurately.

But State Rep. Tim Wesco, a Republican from Osceola, does not agree with the bill. He’s one of three who voted against the measure Monday morning.

Wesco said, “I think it’s important that we allow teachers and principals to focus on solving the problems and not always be enormously overloaded doing paperwork and filling out reports and all of that. That was the reason why I decided on that bill, that I wouldn’t support it.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Porter said this is his third piece of bullying legislation since 2005.

He said his bill works in tandem with Evansville Republican Rep. Wendy McNamara’s bill that has to do with bullying and cyberbullying. Her bill passed the House last week at a vote of 91-0 and was moving through the Senate.