Delaware gets tough on bullying and cyberbullying

Two new laws tackling bullying and cyberbullying are now on Delaware’s books.

Gov. Jack Markell, D-Del, signed House Bill 268 and Senate Bill 193 at Kirk Middle School in Newark, Friday. Laws Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, D-Del, says were long overdue.

“More and more, over the last couple of years, the issue that kept coming up when we went out to schools was this bullying issue.” 

HB 268 requires schools to report all bullying incidents, substantiated or not, to the Dept. of Education. A move that, Lt. Gov. Denn says, was not universally popular when initially introduced.

“One of the things that this bill does do is that it is much tougher on schools and school districts in terms of regularly reporting to the state and parents about what is happening with bullying in their schools,” Denn said. “But, I think, over time [the school districts] realized that this is just critically important.”

SB 193 provides for the development of a statewide cyberbullying policy that the state says takes people’s first amendment rights to free speech into consideration.

“This bill that we put together is really carefully tailored to try to deal with both challenges – to try to make sure that we control this cyberbullying, but also do it in a way that’s going to withstand any legal challenges,” Denn said.

“What this is about is making sure we protect children, but follow the law and follow the Constitution,” Attorney General Beau Biden said.

However, SB 193 allows the Dept. of Justice and the Attorney General’s office to defend a school or district in the event of litigation.

“They don’t want to have to retain a lawyer for $100,000 of litigation,” Biden said. “And so they’ll be able to have my office represent them and represent them both with the force of our office, but really also they’ll do it in a way that doesn’t cost the school districts money that takes away from children’s education.”

The statewide reporting of bullying incidents is effective immediately and will be in place when the school year begins in September. Lt. Gov. Denn says it will likely be early to mid-fall before the statewide cyberbullying policy is finalized by the Dept. of Education and implemented.

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