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Jan 25, 2011 8:28 AM by Marnee Banks (KXLH Helena)

Billings lawmaker addresses bullying issue

HELENA - Montana State Senator Kim Gillan (D-Billings) wants every public school in Montana to adopt an anti-bullying policy.

She is sponsoring the Montana Schools are for Education Act, or SAFE Act. The bill prohibits bullying, harassment, or intimidation of students.

It also requires the Office of Public Instruction to develop a model anti-harassment policy. Then according to the bill each district must adopt their own anti-bullying policy.

Many people testified for and against the bill on Monday. One of thos was Torey Keltner, who works as a resource police officer at Helena High School.

"It affects my work every single day. I can say that bullying is the root of most of the crimes that I deal with," Keltner says.

Harris Himes of Montana Eagle Mount says he worries the policy would violate free speech laws.

"This bill would be a weapon to be used against any kind of anti-homosexual dissent," Himes says.

Chanda Merkel is a freshman at Helena High School and had been the victim of bullying.

"Every day I was called names, given rude gestures, tripped and pushed in the hallways, \and talked about," Merkel says.

Theresa Frei is the mother of children in the Helena area.

"I think I stand in agreement with everyone in this room, and none of us are in support of bullying. However, I do oppose this bill because I oppose the concentration of power in the Office of Public Instruction," Frei says.

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock and Superintendent Denise Juneau both support the bill.

Below is the introduction to Senate Bill 141; click here to read the full text.

A BILL FOR AN ACT ENTITLED: "AN ACT PROMOTING SAFE SCHOOLS AND CREATING THE MONTANA SCHOOLS ARE FOR EDUCATION ACT; PROVIDING DEFINITIONS; ADDRESSING AND PROHIBITING BULLYING, HARASSMENT, OR INTIMIDATION OF STUDENTS; REQUIRING EACH SCHOOL DISTRICT TO ADOPT A POLICY PROHIBITING BULLYING, HARASSMENT, OR INTIMIDATION; PROVIDING MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS FOR THE CONTENTS OF A SCHOOL DISTRICT POLICY; AND REQUIRING THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION TO DEVELOP A MODEL POLICY."

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