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PNS Daily News - October 23, 2020 

President Trump and Joe Biden square off in their final debate; warnings that "dark days" of the pandemic are yet to come; and food assistance now available for some wildfire victims.

2020Talks - October 23, 2020 

The second and last presidential debate was much more controlled than the first; President Trump keeping to his main themes, calmly rebutted by Biden.

Disability Advocates Push for Safe Schools Act in MO

January 19, 2011

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Bullying has become a critical issue nationwide, and Missouri may be the next state to look at prevention. The Missouri Safe Schools Coalition is hopeful a "Safe Schools Act" will be introduced in the Legislature this month.

Stephanie McDowell, youth and family education specialist for Paraquad, Inc., works with Missouri youngsters with disabilities, and says they all have stories of being bullied. She believes it's time for lawmakers to realize getting bullied isn't a childhood rite of passage in school, but a form of abuse. McDowell claims current anti-bullying laws are too vague. She says a Safe Schools Act would give teachers tools to identify forms of bullying, and classroom strategies to reduce it.

"I believe it's really important for teachers to be aware, first of all, of who those groups are that are of risk of bullying, and being able to recognize bullying behaviors."

McDowell says the proposed law identifies categories of young people at high risk for being bullied because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race and religion, along with disabilities.

Opponents of the legislation argue there should be equal protection for everyone, rather than singling out those with certain characteristics as being more worthy of protection than others. McDowell dismisses the criticism that such a law would primarily protect homosexual youth. She says there are multiple areas where kids are at higher risk of being bullied.

"It isn't just one group of kids. I work with kids who have disabilities, and every one of them has mentioned being bullied, in one way or another."

A recent report from the Anti-Bully Alliance in the United Kingdom found that adults typically underestimate not only the amount of bullying experienced by children with disabilities, but also the need for intervention strategies. But backers of anti-bullying legislation say the biggest challenge for the Safe Schools Act could be financial constraints rather than social concerns, as the Missouri Legislature faces another budget shortfall this year.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO