SENATE BILL 393
52nd legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2015
William P. Soules
RELATING TO EDUCATION; ENACTING THE SAFE SCHOOLS FOR ALL STUDENTS ACT TO REQUIRE THE PUBLIC EDUCATION DEPARTMENT TO PROMULGATE RULES THAT REQUIRE SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT BULLYING PREVENTION POLICIES AND PROGRAMS; REPEALING A SECTION OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOL CODE.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:
SECTION 1. A new section of the Public School Code is enacted to read:
"[NEW MATERIAL] SHORT TITLE.--This act may be cited as the "Safe Schools for All Students Act"."
SECTION 2. A new section of the Public School Code is enacted to read:
"[NEW MATERIAL] DEFINITIONS.--As used in the Safe Schools for All Students Act:
A. "bullying" means any severe, pervasive or persistent act or conduct that targets a student, whether physically, electronically or verbally, and that:
(1) may be based on a student's actual or perceived race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, spousal affiliation, physical or mental handicap or any other distinguishing characteristic; or on an association with a person, or group with any person, with one or more of the actual or perceived distinguishing characteristics; and
(2) can be reasonably predicted to:
(a) place a student in reasonable fear of physical harm to the student's person or property;
(b) cause a substantial detrimental effect on a student's physical or mental health;
(c) substantially interfere with a student's academic performance or attendance; or
(d) substantially interfere with a student's ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or privileges provided by an agency, educational institution or grantee;
B. "cyberbullying" means any bullying that takes place through electronic communication;
C. "electronic communication" means a communication transmitted by means of an electronic device, including a telephone, cellular phone, computer, electronic tablet, pager or video or audio recording;
D. "gender identity" means a person's self-perception, or perception of that person by another, of the person's identity as a male or female based upon the person's appearance, behavior or physical characteristics that are in accord with or opposed to the person's physical anatomy, chromosomal sex or sex at birth;
E. "local school board" means the governing body of a school district or charter school;
F. "physical or mental handicap" means a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of a person's major life activities;
G. "progressive discipline" means disciplinary action other than suspension or expulsion from school that is designed to correct and address the basic causes of a student's specific misbehavior while retaining the student in class or in school, or restorative school practices to repair the harm done to relationships and persons from the student's misbehavior, and may include:
(1) meeting with the student and the student's parents;
(2) reflective activities, such as requiring the student to write an essay about the student's misbehavior;
(4) anger management;
(5) health counseling or intervention;
(6) mental health counseling;
(7) participation in skill-building and resolution activities, such as social-emotional cognitive skills building, resolution circles and restorative conferencing;
(8) community service; and
(9) in-school detention or suspension, which may take place during lunch time, after school or during weekends; and
H. "sexual orientation" means heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, whether actual or perceived."
SECTION 3. A new section of the Public School Code is enacted to read:
"[NEW MATERIAL] BULLYING PREVENTION POLICIES--ADOPTION AND ENFORCEMENT.--
A. By July 1, 2016, each local school board shall adopt and enforce policies to:
(1) prevent bullying:
(a) on its property, including electronic communication on or with the use of its property;
(b) at sponsored functions; and
(c) on its to-and-from-school transportation or any school-sponsored transportation; and
(2) prohibit electronic communication directed at a student, that is published with the intent that it be seen by or disclosed to that student and that substantially interferes with the student's ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or privileges provided by the public school.
B. Each local school board shall control the content of its policy; provided that the policy includes:
(1) the definitions as set forth in the Safe Schools for All Students Act;
(2) a statement prohibiting bullying;
(3) a statement prohibiting retaliation against individuals who report or witness incidents of bullying;
(4) a list of consequences, including progressive discipline approaches that can result from an identified incident of bullying that are designed to:
(a) appropriately correct the bullying behavior;
(b) prevent another occurrence of bullying or retaliation;
(c) protect the target of the bullying;
(d) be flexible so that, in application, the consequences can be unique to the individual incident and varied in method and severity based on: 1) the nature of the incident; 2) the developmental age of the person bullying; and 3) any history of problem behavior from the person bullying; and
(e) for cyberbullying incidents, use the least restrictive means necessary to address the interference with the student's ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or privileges provided by the school;
(5) a procedure for reporting bullying or retaliation for reporting an act of bullying, including:
(a) a flexible reporting system that allows for reporting orally and in the student's preferred language;
(b) a method for reporting bullying anonymously, provided that no formal disciplinary measures shall be taken solely on the basis of an anonymous report; and
(c) a method for parents or guardians of students to file written reports of suspected bullying; and
(6) a procedure for prompt investigation of reports of violations of the policy and of complaints of bullying or retaliation, including:
(a) designation of a school administrator to investigate or supervise the investigation of all reports of bullying and to ensure that such investigation is completed promptly after the receipt of any report made under the Safe Schools for All Students Act;
(b) a procedure for notification of the parents or guardians of the student alleged to have committed an act of bullying and the parents or guardians of the students targeted by the alleged act; provided that if the administrator believes, in the administrator's professional capacity, that notifying the parents or guardians would endanger the health or well-being of a student, the administrator may delay such notification as appropriate;
(c) a benchmark that school employees who witness acts of bullying or receive reports of bullying notify the designated administrator not later than two days after the school employee witnesses or receives a report of bullying;
(d) an appeal process for a person accused of bullying or a person who is the target of bullying who is not satisfied with the outcome of the initial investigation; and
(e) development of a student safety support plan for students who are targets of bullying that addresses safety measures the school will take to protect targeted students against further acts of bullying.
C. Each local school board shall submit its bullying prevention policy to the department within thirty days of passage, amendment or any revision made to the policy subsequent to the adoption and implementation of the policy.
D. Each local school board shall include bullying prevention policies and procedures for reporting bullying in student handbooks using developmentally and culturally appropriate language. Policies shall be produced and disseminated in appropriate languages for any school district in which a substantial portion of the student population speaks a language other than English at home.
E. Each public school shall document reports and investigations of bullying and shall maintain those records for no less than four years.
F. Each local school board shall establish procedures for public schools to report aggregate incidents of bullying and incidents of harassment under any applicable federal or state law, along with responses to these incidents, and report this information annually to the department."
SECTION 4. A new section of the Public School Code is enacted to read:
"[NEW MATERIAL] BULLYING PREVENTION PROGRAMS ESTABLISHMENT.--
A. Following adoption of a bullying prevention policy, each public school shall:
(1) establish an annual bullying prevention program for students included in New Mexico's health education content standards with benchmarks and performance standards;
(2) provide annual training on bullying prevention to all employees and volunteers who have significant contact with students; and
(3) incorporate information on the bullying prevention policy into new employee training.
B. Each school district and public school shall develop a plan for the way in which the policy is to be publicized, including:
(1) making each school district's anti-bullying policy, and developmentally, culturally and linguistically appropriate variants of the policy, available on public web sites;
(2) identification of a point of contact for bullying-related concerns; and
(3) informing parents and students about the policy at least annually through student handbooks and other resources."
SECTION 5. A new section of the Public School Code is enacted to read:
"[NEW MATERIAL] DEPARTMENT DUTIES.--
A. The department shall:
(1) issue guidance for bullying prevention programs and policies in accordance with the Safe Schools for All Students Act;
(2) within one hundred twenty days of receipt of the bullying prevention policies submitted by school districts pursuant to provisions of the Safe Schools for All Students Act, review each adopted policy for compliance with the requirements of that act and provide written approval of each district's policy;
(3) within one hundred eighty days of the effective date of the Safe Schools for All Students Act:
(a) promulgate rules for a model policy for local school boards on bullying prevention in accordance with that act, as well as any developmentally, culturally or linguistically appropriate variants of the policy;
(b) provide guidance to local school boards relating to effective forms of progressive discipline to reduce bullying and school violence; and
(c) provide guidance to local school boards on effective bullying prevention programs to reduce bullying and school violence; and
(4) on or before February 1, 2016 and annually thereafter, submit to the legislative education study committee and make publicly available a report on the status of its efforts to implement the provisions of the Safe Schools for All Students Act, including the aggregate number of incidents of bullying in the state, the aggregate number of incidents of harassment under any applicable federal or state laws, the aggregate number of responsive actions taken by public schools by type of action, a tabulation of the number of incidents associated with each distinguishing characteristic defined in the Safe Schools for All Students Act, the department's evaluation of the sufficiency of funding for bullying prevention programs and any recommendations for policy or programmatic change to improve the addressing of bullying issues in the state.
B. The department may convene a group of experts to assist with implementation of the Safe Schools for All Students Act. The group may:
(1) include teachers, administrators, local school board members, school mental health professionals, parents, persons with experience in dealing with youth violence prevention, direct service providers and advocates; and
(2) assist with the development of a model policy in accordance with provisions of the Safe Schools for All Students Act, assist local school boards to develop policies in accordance with provisions of that act, compile and make available to local school boards a list of free or low-cost bullying prevention programs from private or federal sources and assist in development of resources and events to help inform public schools, educators, parents and youth about the requirements of the provisions of the Safe Schools for All Students Act."
SECTION 6. REPEAL.--Section 22-2-21 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 2011, Chapter 50, Section 1, as amended) is repealed.
SECTION 7. EFFECTIVE DATE.--The effective date of the provisions of this act is July 1, 2015.
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