Bully-free Montana Act may prove difficult to enforce

“Bully-Free Montana Act.” There it is, on paper, finally about to be put into place. On April 13, 2015 House Bill 284, a bill outlawing bullying in the state of Montana, was passed out of the house on a final 58-42 vote. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed the bill into law on April 21.
Montana is the last state to join the others in outlawing bullying, and many people may be sighing with relief right about now. HB 284 defines bullying as, “any harassment, intimidation, hazing, or threatening, insulting, or demeaning gesture or physical contact, including any intentional written, verbal, or electronic communication or threat directed against a student that is persistent, severe, or repeated,” and now it seems that all of that is about to be put to rest.
Too many adults see bullying as just “kids being kids” rather than seeing it for the problem it really can escalate into. According to bullyingstatistics.org, nearly 30 percent of students are affected by bullying, whether they are the bully or the bullied, and 160,000 students stay home every day because of bullying. Hopefully this bill will help show people that bullying has become a real problem and something has to be done about it.
Now, as happy as I am that this bill is being put into place, I’m not sure how much it will actually prevent bullying in our state.
In HB 284, Section 3 states that “Bullying of a student enrolled in a public K-12 school by another student or an employee is prohibited.”
It looks great on paper, but what is the Legislature planning on doing to actually enforce that? Public school is a battlefield and, as much as I hate to say it, I don’t feel like this bill is actually going to do much. And what about cyber bullying? As I said earlier, the bill’s definition of bullying includes electronic communication, but how do they expect to control what teenagers and kids are doing online? The Internet has become a large part of our society and the way kids are growing up.
Teenagers are relentless, and though the measure could help bring awareness to what has been happening, I don’t think that it’s going to do much as far as actually stopping bullying goes, whether it’s online or in person.
HB 284 looks great on paper, sounds great in the news, and sounds wonderful to parents, but what about the actual effects it will have in Montana Public Schools?