Countering Bullies in the Commonwealth

Virginia delegates introduce set of anti-bullying bills in General Assembly

Every seven seconds a child is bullied.

That statistic, coming from the National Association of School Psychologists, is followed by the disturbing finding that 85 percent of the time adults do not intervene.

In Virginia, Del. Adam Ebbin (D-Arlington, Fairfax), the state’s only openly gay delegate, and Del. David Englin (D-Arlington, Fairfax), have introduced anti-bullying legislation in the state’s General Assembly to address that concern.

”Currently there is nothing in the Virginia Code that requires administrators to be responsible for implementing policies,” Ebbin said during a Jan. 5 conference call. ”This new law holds administrators responsible for implementing anti-bullying policies” by adding language to Virginia’s criminal code.

Ebbin said he began working on an anti-bullying legislation following the May 31 suicide of Christian Taylor, 16, of Yorktown, Va.

According to Ebbin, authorities told him they could not investigate the suicide of the young man – who was apparently told by peers to take his own life – as a crime, because Virginia does not have a statewide statue regarding bullying.

”My legislation will make bullying a class one misdemeanor, which could lead to a year in prison,” Ebbin said, adding that it could also lead to fines and school expulsion.

Englin said his version of anti-bullying legislation puts greater focus on school policies and would require that the victim and the perpetrator be separated in a way that doesn’t punish the victim. It would also require that administrators be trained to intervene appropriately.

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