On Tuesday night, House Bill 1942 by state Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, which seeks to reduce bullying in schools by providing what the bill analysis calls "a minimal framework" for how to address incidents of bullying, was tentatively approved by the House. The vote was 102-34.

The bill lays out a definition of bullying and calls on school districts to adopt procedures that prohibit it, make students aware of their options for seeking assistance, protect "whistle-blowers," establish procedures for notifying parents and guardians about incidents of bullying, and set out counseling options for both the victim and the bully. The bill also gives authority to a school board to transfer a bully — as opposed to a victim — to a different classroom and different school, if necessary.

State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, successfully amended the bill to prevent someone who engaged in a reasonable act of self defense from being disciplined. Some wondered if such a provision was duplicative of self-defense language already in statute, but a motion to table the amendment failed.

Bill supporters pointed out that the bill allows flexibility for school districts so as not to encroach on local control. State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, rose to speak on the bill, which he indicated he supported. His message was focused not on his fellow lawmakers, but on school districts who knew they had a bullying problem but, instead of addressing it, turned to the Legislature for help. He expects some to turn around and try to raise the local control issue. "To me, that’s absolutely hypocritical," he said, encouraging school districts to go ahead and address known bullying problems without waiting for legislative action.

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The bill must be read a third time and voted on again by the House before it can move to the Senate.

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