Governor Quinn Signs Anti-Bullying Legislation
In an effort to reduce bullying in schools, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn recently signed the Prevent School Violence Act into law (P.A. 096-0952). The Act prohibits bullying on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, martial status, physical or mental disability, military status, sexual orientation, and gender-related identity or expression.
The Act further prohibits bullying during school-sponsored education programs; while in school, on school property or at designated school bus stops; and through the transmission of information from a school computer, a school computer network or other similar electronic school equipment. Although the Governor’s office has stated that the Act expands the definition of bullying to include communications via e-mail, text message or social networking Web sites, the Act’s limited language arguably only prohibits such communications if made through school equipment. As a result, with respect to electronic communications made off-campus or through non-District equipment, students can only be disciplined for such communication if a sufficient “nexus” exists between the communication and the school community.
The Act also requires Illinois schools to have gang-prevention training. Such training includes instruction in conflict resolution, cultural sensitivity, personal goal setting and resisting peer pressure. Finally, the Act creates a 15-member School Bullying Prevention Task Force that is charged with, among other things, exploring the causes and consequences of bullying in schools and identifying practices that reduce incidences of bullying. The task force must prepare a report for the Illinois governor by March 1, 2011.