New Virginia law addresses bullying in schools

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Just in time for the new school year, Virginia lawmakers are trying to cut down on bullying in classrooms.

A new law, which went into effect July 1, sets a time frame of when schools must report any bullying to parents.

Dawn Driskill knows what it’s like. She said her daughter was bullied while attending Matoaca Middle School in Chesterfield County. She said the bully chopped off a chunk of her daughter’s hair.

“She was really nervous about going back to school,” said Driskill. “It’s very frustrating.”

Driskill said the school notified her when her daughter’s hair got slashed, but she later learned the problems began before that.

“My daughter informed me that she had been telling her teacher she was having problems with the student for the past month,” said Driskill.

HB 1709 was introduced by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax). It requires school principals to notify the parent of any student involved in an alleged incident of bullying of the status of any investigation within five school days of the allegation.

In a statement, Filler-Corn said the law was a product of a shared belief that every student in Virginia has the right to not only learn but thrive in school.

“I am grateful that Virginia is taking the lead to fight back against bullying in our schools. Together, we can make our schools a safer and more inclusive space for students across the Commonwealth,” she said.

Driskill supports the legislation. She said she hopes to see even more targeting bullying.

“I don’t think it’s enough. I think it’s a good step though,” she said. “You have to have administration and the schools on board, and then you also have to have the students that are willing to speak up and say that they are being bullied.”

Tiffany Goodman is a counselor for Challenge Discovery Projects. She also facilitates an anti-bullying program called Say It With Heart.

“A child is not going to be excited to go home to say, ‘Mom I was bullied today in school.’ There’s a lot of shame around it,” she said.

She believes the new law will hold people accountable and get the conversation going between the schools, the families and the students.

“I think it brings a lot of transparency to things that might not be totally transparent at this point,” she said.

Goodman said the effects of bullying can range from increased anxiety or depression to truancy or higher rates of dropout.

When the governor signed the legislation he also signed one from the Senate.

SB 1117 requires school counselors to have mental health training.