COLUMBUS— Senator Sandra Williams has introduced two pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 196 and Senate Bill 197 to combat bullying in the State of Ohio. The first bill, SB 197, will require a tiered disciplinary procedure for harassment, intimidation or bullying in school and to make willful harassment, intimidation or bullying of another student a minor misdemeanor under certain circumstances. 

“I am fighting to ensure the safety of Ohio’s students, both physically and mentally. Bullying behavior needs to be taken seriously,” said Senator Williams. “Concerned parents have responded to the bullying epidemic by asking schools and lawmakers to enact legislation for bullying deterrence and this is a response to their concerns.” 

The second bill, SB 196, will create an aggravated bullying charge for juveniles. If passed, the offense states that no person shall knowingly cause another person to believe that the offender will cause serious physical or emotional harm to the person or property of the other person. Whoever violates this is guilty of aggravated bullying and the resulting charge will be a misdemeanor of the third degree.  

Victoria Todd, a child and adult Psychoanalyst, states “As a psychoanalyst, who has been working with children for thirty years, I am well aware of the long-term effects bullying has on victims, bystanders and bullies themselves.  A bully is six times more likely to be incarcerated by the age of 24 than his/her peers and five times more likely to have a serious criminal record.  Victims suffer from anxiety, depression, loneliness, eating and sleeping disturbance, substance abuse, health complaints, decreased academic achievement and suicidal thoughts and impulses. Senator Williams recognizes the scope of the problem and the need for early and continued, meaningful intervention and I wholeheartedly support her proposed legislation.”

Senator Williams was contacted by several families, who have school-age children in Senate District 21, about their children being constantly bullied and the effects it was having on their self-esteem, sense of security, and education. Senator Williams met with local school officials, who informed her that they were limited in what they could do because of state law. After the school refused to take action and meet with the families of those being bullied and the bullies, Senator Williams decided to take action. 

“In the wake of much adversity, our students need to know that they are being responsibly protected,” said Senator Williams. “The consequences of bullying behavior are traumatic and damaging to Ohio’s children and parents. Without intervention students who bully others are incentivized, without consequence, to continue their aggressive behavior as they advance through school and move into adulthood. Senate Bill 196 and Senate Bill 197 demonstrates that Ohio lawmakers acknowledge that the behavior of bullying is as serious as the effects that come from it and will be treated as such.” 

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