On June 4 HEA 1423 became law in Indiana. This bullying law is important for prevention educators because bullying prevention work has frequently provided partnerships with schools that have enabled further work around teen dating violence prevention. Additionally, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have described a developmental pathway between bullying behavior in youth and sexually abusive behaviors in adolescence (Espelage, Basile and Hamburger, 2012. Journal of Adolescent Health). Essentially, working with schools to promote respectful relationship behaviors and to prevent bullying from an early age fits with our work to prevent teen dating abuse and sexual abuse among older students.
Unlike Heather’s Law that required the Department of Education to identify curricula and policy models but did not require action on the part of schools, the new bullying law requires that schools implement bullying prevention education for students in grades 1-12, conduct training for all school staff and volunteers, adopt investigatory procedures, enact disciplinary guidelines for those who bully, provide supportive services to targets, and track incidents of bullying over the course of each school year.
Strategies like these that involve multiple interventions at the individual, relationship, organizational and community levels align with what we know about what works in prevention and can contribute to a school climate where abusive behaviors just doesn’t work. It is also important to note that this bullying legislation adds protections based on behaviors defined as bullying, but does not subtract protections from harassment guaranteed through federal education laws like Title IX for protected statuses including sex, gender, race, or ethnicity.