Gov. Christine Gregoire has signed a bill, sponsored by State Rep. Marko Liias of Edmonds, that is aimed at helping prevent school bullying and youth suicide. The new law creates an ongoing group to look at ways for schools to prevent harassment, as well as including mental health and suicide prevention in classroom activities.
“When I talk with students, parents and community members, it is clear that we need to take another step to engage more partners in tackling school bullying,” Liias said. “Bullying is a difficult problem, but it’s an area where hard work and creative thinking could save many kids from a really difficult time in their lives.”
Liias’ legislation, House Bill 1163, creates a workgroup led by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Office of Education Ombudsman to evaluate bullying issues through 2016. The group will work with community members to develop prevention actions and produce a biennial report for the Legislature.
Linked with harassment and bullying, youth suicide is also addressed in the new law. Mental health and suicide prevention will now be included in expected student knowledge standards around the state through the health and fitness standards. Pilot programs will also be developed to implement suicide prevention efforts.
“If we can create some openings with students that are struggling, then we can begin to prevent these needless tragedies,” Liias said. “Being a young person today is challenging and overwhelming. As a community we need to find better ways to support our youth and ensure they are able to pursue happiness.”
The law takes effect July 22.