LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Should states criminalize bullying? 46 states have some type of anti-bullying policy in place but some states are looking at creating criminal ramifications for bullies.
In the last ten years, more than 120 bills have passed in state legislatures across the country to address bullying according to the U.S. Board of Education
. While most policies hold schools accountable, some states are changing their criminal code as well.
So far, North Carolina, Idaho, Kentucky and Virginia have all introduced bullying provisions into their juvenile court systems. Virginia is considering legislation that would make the most serious cases of bullying punishable by a $2,500 fine and up to a year in prison.
While Arkansas legislators say harassment and assault charges cover the most severe acts of bullying, some parents say they want more.
"I mean, just all of a sudden, they are all down there fighting," says Frances Redmon, a Little Rock grandmother who brought her three grandchildren to Riverfront park Monday afternoon.
But as she watched them play, Redmon says, across the park, another group of children caught her attention.
"There was about six of them on top of two in the waterfalls down there and a teacher stepped in and pulled them all apart," says Redmon. "I don't remember bullying going on when I was a child but I see it nowadays."
Redmon isn't alone.
"I sponsored the bullying bill to try to tighten up some loose ends with Arkansas bullying law, " says Senator David Johnson of Little Rock who sponsored Senate Bill 892
Senator Johnson proposed the fourth amendment to Arkansas' Anti-Bullying Act
which became law in 2003. The act underwent an amendments in 2005, 2007 and last year. Now, the law includes social media and cyberbullying along with specific guidelines for educators. Every school district in the state of Arkansas is now required to adopt an anti-bullying policy. If a district fails to adopt or uphold that policy, they can be held accountable by the state board of education.
"The law requires any staff member or teacher to report, make a report about it promptly and for the school administrators to do something about it promptly," says Senator Johnson.
But as for any criminal action, Senator Johnson says the most severe cases are already taken care of under criminal code for harassment, assault and battery.
"There is already a criminal statute on the books and hypothetically, if a student's conduct ends up constituting harassment as defined by the code, then they can be charged in juvenile court and be dealt with there," says Senator Johnson
As for those harassments that end in children taking their own lives, Redmon says a law for that should be considered.
"I don't know what the punishment should be but I think there should be something. They should not be let off scott free and it might save a lot of teenagers lives," says Redmon.
Senator Johnson says while Arkansas law does not specifically address bullying in it's criminal code, civil action can still be taken by the victim's parents. For instance, if the victim harms his or herself as a direct result of the bullying, the school district and the parents of a suspected bully can be held liable.
Senator Johnson also says while he believes Arkansas' current law is comprehensive, he would be willing to consider an additional criminal law for bullying if the need arises.
Currently, every school district is mandated to implement an anti-bullying policy.