The state Legislature has unanimously approved a state law cracking down on bullying, following two cases of Massachusetts youths committing suicide after allegedly being bullied.
The legislation would require school employees to report all instances of bullying and require principals to investigate them.
"Bullying is not new. Bullying has been with us from time immemorial. But what has changed is that it appears to be more pervasive, more destructive," said Senator Robert A. O'Leary, Senate chairman of the Education Committee, as he introduced the bill in his chamber.
"We're going to send out a message that this kind of behavior is not acceptable and the community needs to deal with it," O'Leary said. The proposal passed on a 38-0 vote in the Senate.
Representative Martha Walz, House chairwoman of the Education Committee, said the bill was "very strong legislation that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of children in our state."
"This is a day that we can be proud we have done something positive – to eradicate bullying and to demonstrate to this commonwealth and to the nation that bullying will no longer be tolerated," said Representative John Scibak, whose district includes South Hadley, where the case of Phoebe Prince drew international attention to the issue of bullying.
The bill gained momentum after the deaths of the 15-year-old Prince and 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover of Springfield, who allegedly committed suicide after being bullied. The proposal also passed unanimously in the House.
Both the House and Senate had previously passed versions of the bill. A House-Senate conference committee on Wednesday released a compromise version.
The bill now heads to the governor's desk. A spokeswoman said Wednesday the governor would review the bill but considered passage of strong anti-bullying legislation "a top priority."
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