Missouri's state law on bullying defined

Missouri is one of seven states in the country that had only anti-bullying laws, no policies. (File)

For the month of November, KRCG looked at what state laws and policies Missouri has in effect to put an end to bullying and checked to see whether it’s really enforced.

Missouri is one of seven states in the country that had only anti-bullying laws, no policies.

Missouri state law defines bullying as “intimidation, unwanted aggressive behavior, or harassment that is repetitive or is substantially likely to be repeated and causes a reasonable student to fear for his or her physical safety or property; substantially interferes with the educational performance, opportunities, or benefits of any student without exception; or substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the school.”

Anything from physical actions to written or electronic communications falls under the law.

In 2016, Governor Jay Nixon signed into law House Bill 1583, expanding upon cyberbullying.

The law defines cyberbullying as "through the transmission of a communication including, but not limited to, a message, text, sound, or image by means of an electronic device, including but not limited to, a telephone, wireless telephone, or other wireless communication device, computer or pager.”

It also changed the law regarding bullying in schools, how districts report, investigate and provide training on it.

The law also modified the requirements for Missouri’s anti-bullying policies, mandating each district's anti-bullying policy must be included in the school's student handbook and required schools to overhaul their anti-bullying policies to include new material.

"Absolutely, there is support on both sides of the aisle for cracking down on bullying and how we go about doing it is a subject of debate which is what we have legislature for," Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton said.

In early 2017, Sifton sponsored legislation modifying the requirements for school anti-bullying policies but it never got out of committee.

On Jan. 1, 2017, a new law, which was part of an overhaul of a state criminal code, took effect.

It toughened the punishments for bullying and harassment.

The new law turned a third-degree assault, which means causing injury to another person, into a Class E felony. This meant students could be face jail time if convicted.

Still, Sifton said Missouri had room for improvement.

"Missouri currently requires districts to have a policy on bullying but it expressly prohibits districts from adopting anti-bullying policies that are intended to help specific kinds of kids,” Sifton said. “That can include rape victims, that can include bullying on the basis of color, sexual orientation, religion, disability. So right now Missouri law keeps districts from doing anything specifically for those children and I don't think that impediment should remain in place."

He said he was hopeful lawmakers can continue to work on anti-bullying laws and policies but said it was difficult to since it is hard to pass education policy in the state of Missouri.

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