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Guest Columnist: Dr. Missy, Feelings Helper

What House Bill 116 does about bullying

In 2012, Governor Kasich signed into law House Bill 116 (also known as the “Jessica Logan Act”) in memory of a student who committed suicide due to bullying via texting and sexting. Jessica Logan was an 18-year-old student at Sycamore High School in Cincinnati. She sent a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend. When their relationship ended, he launched the nude picture into cyberspace. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported the photo was sent to teenagers in several Cincinnati-area high schools. Students called her a slut, whore, and skank, according to www.courthousenews.com. Logan hanged herself in July 2008 after being bullied and harassed relentlessly by classmates.

 

The United States court system defines sexting as “an act of sending sexually explicit materials through mobile phones.” The messages may be text, photo, or video.

 

Why do teen girls sext? A study found that 40 percent do it as a joke, 34 percent do it to feel sexy, and 12 percent feel pressured to do it. Additionally, 11% of teen girls ages 13 to 16 have been involved with sending or receiving sexually explicit messages. Visit www.dosomething.org and www.guardchild.com.

 

House Bill 116 expands Ohio’s current anti-bullying law to prohibit harassment by electronic methods. This includes harassment, intimidation, and bullying through computers, cell phones, or other electronic devices.

 

Ohio School districts must revise anti-bullying policies to prohibit bullying on school buses and to provide for the possibility of suspension of a student responsible for harassment, intimidation, or bullying by an electronic act (i.e., cyberbullying).

 

Ohio School districts’ anti-bullying policies must include a strategy for protecting a bullying victim or other persons from new or additional bullying, including a means by which a person can report an incident anonymously.

 

Ohio School districts’ anti-bullying policies must include a statement prohibiting students from deliberately making false reports of bullying and a disciplinary procedure for any student responsible for deliberately making a false report.

 

Ohio School districts must require all students in the district to be provided annually with age-appropriate instruction (as determined by the board of education) on the board’s anti-bullying policy, including a written or verbal discussion of the consequences for violating the school’s policy.

 

Once per school year, school districts must send a written statement describing the anti-bullying policy and consequences for violations to each student’s custodial parent or guardian.  This can be sent electronically or with report cards.

 

Ohio School districts must include training on the anti-bullying policy in its in-service training program for child abuse prevention or intervention required for all teachers, administrators, counselors, nurses, and school psychologists. Visit www.ohioschoolplan.org/03-13-12.html.

 

All public school districts in Ohio are mandated by law to file Bullying Incident Reports which include occurrences of bullying as well as reports of intimidation and harassment.  The school districts must also have a published policy providing details of how they plan to handle various types of bullying which they are alerted to.

 

It’s important for parents to keep apprised on how their child’s school is following House Bill 116. Talk with school staff at the beginning of each school year about anti-bullying projects and programs for students. Partner with the school and support bullying prevention. Volunteer to be on a parent committee to discuss bullying prevention and intervention. Seek input from your kids and their friends about bullying.

 

Parents need to consider whether a camera on their child’s cell phone is necessary. One click and a nude photo enters cyberspace. Talk to both your daughters and your sons about sexting before you give them electronic devices. And keep talking. Be proactive. Tell them the story of Jessica Logan.

 

Dr. Missy, Ph.D., is a feelings helper, child therapist, play therapist, and child trauma therapist. She provides therapeutic services at Affirmations, Columbus, Ohio.

 

 

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