Law comes as studies show divisive rhetoric in national politics has filtered down to schools
SACRAMENTO—Legislation by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) to prevent bullying and harassment in California schools was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown today. Assembly Bill 2291 will require the California Department of Education (CDE) to establish guidelines to prevent bullying and disseminate online training modules to local educators.
“Our children should not be afraid to go to school,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “When one student is bullied, the entire class suffers and misses out on valuable learning opportunities. I am thrilled Governor Brown signed this important law to work with the Department of Education and local educators to prevent bullying before it starts.”
While bullying is an age-old problem, recent findings indicate that the divisive and xenophobic rhetoric plaguing our national politics has trickled down to schools. Studies have shown that the most common reason a student is bullied in the United States is related to the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. It is estimated that school districts in California lose out on $267 million dollars annually due to bullying-related absences.
A survey by the Council of American-Islamic Relations revealed that 55 percent of Muslim students have experienced bullying and harassment related to their religion. The analysis also indicated that students are wary to report incidents of bullying due to a fear of retaliation and a belief that educators do not have the necessary training to intervene and prevent bullying.
AB 2291 will require the California Department of Education to develop guidelines to protect students before bullying begins. While CDE provides resources for students who have been bullied, there was previously no requirement to provide proactive guidance to prevent bullying or cyber-bullying. The law will help educators and parents stop bullying before it happens by equipping them with proper tools they need in the classroom and at home. AB 2291 will also build on a 2014 law, AB 1993, that instructed CDE to create online training modules to recognize the dynamics of bullying and cyberbullying. This legislation will ensure those modules are publicly available and distributed to school staff throughout the state.
The California Chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Advancement Project, and Equality California sponsored AB 2291.
“Today California has taken an important step in addressing bullying and protecting all students,” said Yannina Casillas, Legislative and Government Relations Coordinator for CAIR-CA. “In CAIR California's statewide report on school bullying, we found that 55 percent of Muslim students in California reported having experienced bullying. The toll that Islamophobia takes on the mental health of American Muslims is significant and even more substantial for students, who are expected to bear the burden of defending against Islamophobic stereotypes while coping with possible mental distress resulting from bullying. The passage of AB 2291 will ensure that the learning environments for all of our students are free from hostility and discrimination.”
“Advancing Justice - CA applauds Governor Brown for signing this important legislation into law,” said Andrew Medina, California Policy Manager at Advancing Justice - CA. “At a time when divisive and harmful political speech is on the rise, it’s vital that every educator in California have the tools they need to prevent this type of vitriol and maintain a safe school environment.”
“It is a right of every student to come to a safe and welcoming school environment,” said Khydeeja Alam Javid, Director of Governmental Relations for the Advancement Project California. “Unfortunately, the pervasiveness of bullying is an epidemic that is eating away into that civil right. Our schools need the tools to do more to prevent bullying on school campuses and this bill provides such opportunities. We thank Governor Brown for signing this important piece of legislation.”
"California teachers are on the front lines of protecting our students from bullying and cyberbullying, but we need to equip them with the training and tools to do so," said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. "We're proud to stand with Assemblymember Chiu in support of AB 2291 and are committed to working toward a day when all our students — including those who are LGBTQ — have a safe and supportive school in which they can learn and succeed."
The bill will take effect January 1, 2019.