Rep. Diane Patrick

The Texas House Committee on Public Education voted 10-1 today to advance a bipartisan anti-bullying bill, authored by Republican Rep. Diane Patrick of Arlington. The bill, a committee substitute for Patrick’s HB 1942, doesn’t specifically protect LGBT youth but incorporates much of the language from another anti-bullying bill by Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin. For example, Patrick’s bill would update the definition of bullying to include cyberbullying, and it would allow the bully, instead of just the victim, to be transferred to another classroom or campus. Strama’s bill had the backing of Equality Texas, which now plans to support Patrick’s bill. The text of the committee’s substitute for Patrick’s bill wasn’t immediately available on the Legislature’s website, but Equality Texas provides details of the measure in a press release below.

Committee Votes Favorably for Rep. Diane Patrick’s Bill – CSHB 1942

Austin, Texas (Tuesday, April 12, 2011) – The House Committee on Public Education today advanced anti-bullying legislation authored by State Representative Diane Patrick (R-Arlington). Patrick’s CSHB 1942 was voted favorably by the committee on a 10 to 1 vote. While more than a dozen anti-bullying bills have been proposed this legislative session, including HB 224 by Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin), CSHB 1942 by Patrick is likely to be the only anti-bullying legislation with enough bipartisan support to pass the Texas House of Representatives.

Equality Texas has worked with Rep. Strama’s office for the past two years on his proposed legislation, HB 224. “Equality Texas considers Rep. Patrick’s bill a bipartisan victory for all Texas children. While Rep. Strama’s bill presented the most comprehensive approach to addressing bullying and harassment so that all Texas school children are safe, we are pleased to see that Rep. Patrick has incorporated most of Rep. Strama’s language into her bill,” said Dennis Coleman, Equality Texas Executive Director. “Rep. Patrick’s bill is just the first step towards making Texas schools safe for all children. This bill needs to go to the full House for vote.”

Components of Rep. Diane Patrick’s bill that are similar to Rep. Strama’s bill include:

• Updated definition of bullying to include expression through electronic means (cyberbullying),

• Covers written, verbal, electronic, or physical conduct that:

Harms a student, damages property, or places a student in reasonable fear of harm to person or property,

Is sufficiently severe, persistent, and pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational  environment,

Exploits an imbalance of power between the perpetrator and target, and

Interferes with a student’s education or disrupts the operation of a school.

• Provides for the transfer of a student who engaged in bullying to another classroom on the same campus, or to another campus in the district,

• Provides for parental notification of an incident of bullying to parent/guardian of the bully and the target,

• Provides for the establishment of procedures for on-campus reporting, investigating, and response.

Unlike Rep. Strama’s bill, CSHB 1942 does not require reporting accountability beyond the campus. The bill does not mandate reporting from the campus to its district, or from the district to the state. However, Rep. Patrick has added provisions to incorporate bullying and harassment into schools’ health curriculum with essential knowledge and skills that include evidence-based practices that will effectively address awareness, prevention, identification, and resolution of and intervention in bullying and harassment.

“We don’t want to see another Texas child bullied to death. We want this Legislature to pass an anti-bullying bill, and we look forward to working with Rep. Patrick to make that happen,” said Coleman.

CSHB 1942 will next proceed to the House Calendars Committee, which is responsible for setting it for full floor debate.