Last night I received this letter with a plea to publish it. For young heroes like Brianna, I am happy to do so. It’s pretty self-explanatory:
My name is Brianna Hartford. I’m 17 years old and a student from Littleton, NH. I serve on the NH Legislative Youth Advisory Council as well as the Bully Free NH organization. Last year, I had the honor of being a part of a wonderful group of people who worked to get NH’s new anti-bullying law through the legislature and I was thrilled to see it signed by Governor Lynch last June. NH now has a nationally recognized model anti-bullying policy and students will be safer in our schools.
Last week the House Education Committee held a public hearing for HB 370, a bill to eliminate 3 sections of NH’s law. The only people to testify in support of this bill were two of the state representatives sponsoring this legislation. 54 people - including parents, students, school administrators, teachers, the Department of Education, attorneys, child advocates, and others showed up in opposition to HB 370. Our House Education Committee heard factual, valuable reasons as to why our law should remain as written. Two days later, by a 10-6 vote, the Committee passed HB 370. Did the voices of the people matter at all? If they had, HB 370 would have been defeated.
If the full House follows the recommendation of the Education committee, several important safeguards will be removed from our law. First is the removal of a list of most commonly targeted children (those who are gay, obese, disabled, etc.) from the Purpose and Intent section. It’s imperative that this list remain in our law as it sends a clear message that every student is equal and bullying toward any student will not be tolerated here in NH. HB 370 also would remove a superintendent’s waiver for notifying parents of a bullying situation if it is in the best interest of the child. Finally, HB 370 would remove a school official’s ability to intervene in bullying situations that occur outside of school (such as cyberbullying) but impede on the educational environment and interfere with a student’s ability to learn.
Our new Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Law isn’t even fully enacted yet. It would make more sense to wait and see how our law does for a couple years. Passing these proposed revisions now does a huge disservice to NH schools and their students. HB 370 serves no other purpose than to take protection away from victims of bullying and ultimately, hurt the education system here in NH.
I would like to express my extreme disappointment in those members of the House Education Committee who voted in support of this bill as well as my belief that the proposal and passing of this awful piece of legislation had nothing to do with public service and everything to do with the current majority in the House exercising power over the opposite political party. Addressing the problem of bullying in our schools should be a nonpartisan issue. We can still stop HB 370 from becoming law. I encourage students, parents, school faculty members, and community members to contact your state representatives and ask them to vote against HB 370 when this bill reaches the House floor. Bullying is not just a school issue. It’s a community issue and we need our Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Law to remain as written in order to most effectively deal with it. Let’s not allow an ignorant and reckless piece of legislation to overturn the great policy we have in NH.
I was wondering when the Bill O’Brien statehouse was going to get around to gutting the anti-bullying law. While Brianna speaks powerfully to all the sections they want to cut to hollow out this law’s strength, I took most notice of this strikeout:
Bullying in schools has historically included actions shown to be motivated by a pupil’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry or ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, physical, mental, emotional, or learning disability, gender, gender identity and expression, obesity, or other distinguishing personal characteristics, or based on association with any person identified in any of the above categories.
This scissor work makes no sense whatsoever - unless there is some target of bullying in that list the sponsors don’t want to equate with the others.
You figure it out.