Bill fines teachers, staff who fail to report bullying

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MADISON, STRUM, Wis. (AP, WEAU) -- Educators fear a bill that would fine teachers and staff who fail to report bullying could have unintended consequences.

Republican Rep. Garey Bies, of Sister Bay, is circulating the legislation that imposes a $200 fine for failing to report students who bully. Wisconsin Association of School Boards spokesman Dan Rossmiller says he fears the proposal could lead to teachers over-identifying student behavior as bullying because they don't want to risk being fined.

Bies tells the State Journal that parents say teachers aren't doing enough to stop bullying. State Department of Public Instruction policy defines bullying as "deliberate or intentional behavior using words or actions, intended to cause fear, intimidation or harm." It says bullying behavior can be physical, verbal, or indirect, such as spreading rumors, social exclusion, or cyber bullying.

"We want to create a safe friendly environment for children to have a good experience so they can learn to the maximum," Bies said.

"If you're required to do something, there's no consequence if you didn't do anything, people choose to ignore it. What would be the penalty?"

Currently all schools are mandated to have an anti-bullying policy. Bies said he was approached by parents who said nothing was done after their children were bullied, and more reporting could make a difference.

Eleva Strum superintendent Craig Semingson said current policies are working and fines are unnecessary.

“Most of the time we can't tell the parent what the consequences were for the other student," Semingson said.

"We'd probably see a flood of reports of bullying by teachers because they're afraid of being investigated, being fined, having police come in and question them."

"If people are doing what they're supposed to be doing, they have nothing to fear from this, because they are complying," Bies said.

"Most of the bullying that I know is being reported, it's being looked into," Semingson said.

Semingson said minor claims could waste school and police resources, but Bies said a clear school policy defining bullying could prevent that.

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