John Baba’s 14-year-old son was assaulted in his second week of high school by a student who was on probation.
When Baba arrived at the school, his son was lying with an ice pack on his cheek, one eye swollen shut, a bloody mouth and nose and lacerations on his face.
Baba said he asked the school if paramedics or police had been called but was told that was his responsibility.
“The protocols that the school failed to take really upset me and the rest of the community of friends that we have at this high school and the district,” Baba told the House Education Committee on Thursday.
Baba brought the incident to the attention of Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, who introduced a bill calling for disciplinary action against school employees, from administrators to teachers to janitors, who fail to file detailed reports about bullying.
The bill also would allow parents and students to fill out forms to report incidents of bullying. It would require schools to contact emergency services, including police and paramedics, when appropriate.
The Education Committee endorsed HB 2415 on a 6-1 vote, sending it to floor by way of Rules Committee.
At a news conference before the hearing, Yee said many other parents had spoken to her about school bullying but weren’t willing to go on the record.
“The victims of bullies and even their parents are too afraid to come out of fear of retribution,” Yee said. “There are devastating consequences of school bullying, and for too many years we have not held anyone accountable for these actions.”
Yee said schools need to develop clearly stated, zero-tolerance policies to combat school bullying and emergency response procedures.
Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, who voted against the measure, said he was concerned about allowing each school district to develop its own definition of bullying and about the possibility of innocent comments being misconstrued as bullying.
“We’re teaching our children to shut up in a free society,” Fillmore said. “And I don’t think that’s right.”
Other legislation on bullying:
Two Democratic lawmakers unsuccessfully pushed this session for legislation they dubbed the Arizona Safe Schools Act. It would have required schools to address cyber-bullying and bias-motivated bullying. They offered identical bills in each chamber.
SB 1549, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, received a hearing but was held in committee. HB 2580, sponsored by Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, didn’t receive a hearing.