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"Love" To Stop Bullying In Missouri

February 14, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Missouri lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they would love to stop bullying in Missouri schools. Two bills have already been filed to address bullying behaviors in school.

Morgan Keenan, a coordinator with the Missouri Safe Schools Coalition, says both have bipartisan support. That's a good indicator that anti-bullying legislation will fare better this year than it did in previous sessions, he adds.

"The real issue is that we have a hot topic when it comes to bullying, and our legislators do want to do something. They're just trying to play with what's the best thing to do right now."

The Missouri Safe Schools Coalition supports a bill that defines certain categories of kids who are at higher risk of being bullied, but its opponents say all students need to be protected equally. Some Missouri House members are meeting today to discuss both bills and address potential obstacles to getting them passed.

Keenan says the civil rights movement successfully defined groups, a process called "enumerating" them, as a way to address specific concerns.

"It's not to exclude anyone. In fact, the bill language says, 'We want to protect all students. These are the students that we know are most often bullied.' We want to lift them up - but we definitely want to protect all students."

Of the states with anti-bullying laws, Keenan says only a small fraction enumerate categories, including New York and North Carolina.

The bills are HB 273 and HB 460; both address bullying in school.

Heather Claybrook/Diane Ronayne, Public News Service - MO