ANNAPOLIS — Sen. Michael Hough wants to hold school bullies accountable for their actions.

Hough (R-Frederick and Carroll) has introduced a bill, Senate Bill 78, that asks that county boards of education statewide, in response to bullying or other behavior that disrupts the “well-being of the school community,” require those who bully or otherwise harm others do the following, on a case-by-case basis:

  • Apologize to those they harmed.
  • Offer restitution (money, objects they stole or something similar) to those they harmed.
  • Attend a conference with a parent or guardian and school staff.
  • Modify their schedule so they are not attending the same class as the victim.

Hough’s proposal was heard by the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday. In an interview afterward, Hough said he has heard a lot about student discipline issues, both from teachers on the campaign trail and from his three children, who are all in Frederick County Public Schools.

This is Hough’s second attempt to take action against bullies. Last year, he proposed an amendment to a bill before the Senate that would have provided remediation in cases of bullying, but it failed.

With debate about the Kirwan Commission and education funding this session, the school environment needs to be included in that discussion, he said.

“To make sure our kids go to learn in a safe classroom, it’s really important,” Hough said. “Especially with the investments that we’re making, you can’t have one or two kids distracting and taking away from the whole classroom.”

His proposal, however, prompted a mixed reaction at the hearing.

Some, including Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-Wicomico and Worcester), were supportive. She said bullying can cause problems throughout public schools.

“I consistently continue to hear from teachers and substitute teachers about the conditions in the classroom and the student behavior,” Carozza said. “And how the ... disruptive behavior of one or two students actually ends up affecting the school [and] student performance.”

A trio of people who testified, however, said that while Hough’s bill was in good faith, it didn’t fully address the issue, and restorative practices involve more than requiring the bully or aggressor to apologize or make up for their actions.

One of those who testified was Ande Kolp, executive director of the Arc of Maryland, a nonprofit that works with families who have children with developmental disabilities. Kolp said each case is different.

“In some cases, you look at the whole child’s situation,” Kolp said. “Have they had previous trauma? Are they currently in a trauma situation at home?”

Hough said he viewed the four requirements as a graduated list, with an apology being the first step and the modification of a student’s schedule as a last resort.

“I just want to make sure there are safety measures,” he said. “I kind of see that as a last step, where if a kid got assaulted in a class or something happened, you could separate them so a kid doesn’t have to go in every day and ... face some other kid who beat him up.”

Even with all the provisions, Sen. Arthur Ellis (D-Charles) said he was worried that Hough’s proposal, along with other similar laws, might “lack teeth” if local school boards aren’t required to enforce them. He said that it could be difficult to do so.

“It’s hard to mandate exactly how a professional should handle their daily activities,” Ellis said. “There’s so many conditions, there’s so many issues involved with conflict in the schools. So, for us to mandate how teachers and administrators deal with each specific situation, it is very difficult and it steps on their professional responsibility.”

Hough said he appreciated the testimony and discussion among senators and those who testified. Again, he said it’s an important issue given the Kirwan Commission and education funding.

“If we’re going to focus on classrooms, then we should really focus on the classroom environments,” he said. “Bullying and school discipline are a huge issue now.”

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(19) comments

gorillagusto

My point-by-point analysis: A compulsory apology means nothing. Restitution should be handled in the courts, not the schools. A conference with a jerk-producing parent is pointless. And kids are very resourceful about being a-holes to each other out of class.

This proposal is a fine example of what you get when ideas develop in a vacuum...which in this case is between Hough's ears.

Lev928

I'm waiting for him ... or them ... to pass a Corrupt Politicians Act so they can be held accountable for their continued lies, abuse of taxpayer money and their overall lack of personal accountability and responsibility.

phydeaux994

Hough always looks like he just smelled something bad.

KellyAlzan

It’s like he couldn’t think of anything else to come up with for this year.

How bout revamping Maryland’s home improvement contractor laws?

How bout laws where mortgage companies must work with people where the senior age bread winning husband passes away, and the elderly wife can’t afford the mortgage? Or where a single person whom is hospitalized for an extended period and falls behind? Make some laws requiring mortgage companies to work with people under certain scenarios.

Comment deleted.
Business Owner

Please tell me you're not really a principal in the Frederick County School system.

Business Owner

State legislation to deal with student behavior? "State law requires that you apologize. Now, say you are sorry." An absolute joke.

DickD

Hough is right, the issue though is how to stop bullying. Probably the best way is to leave it up to the teachers and principals.

Dwasserba

No.

DickD

Why?

thump1202

Bullying happens when kids who are insecure and overcompensating to cover it up (bullies) pick on kids who have no self-esteem whatsoever. Teachers can't solve these problems, they may be able to help to a certain level, but whatever caused the behavior to manifest is likely still going on outside of their limited time with the children.

JeanieLagrave

I have an idea, why don't you hold the parents of these bullies, who are children let us remember, accountable. These children wouldn't be bullies if they had the correct parental guidance and secure home situation, or the proper mental health treatment, whichever is fueling the bulling. There are so many degrees of what is now being called bulling, that I can't fathom how it could possibly be enforced and whose going to enforce these regulations? Don't the teachers have enough to do? I'm not a violent person, but I do know that one good punch in the nose to a kid that is harassing you settles the whole situation. Been there done that.

newspostreader

It is interesting that this came from Hough, when i consider him a bit of a bully as well. He has very strong opinions and doesn't believe that we are all created equal and deserve equal rights.

thump1202

I got picked on in school back in the day for not knowing English very well. I did know how to fight pretty well and after the bullies got some tough love, we all got along fine. I taught my kids how to throw a punch and that if they ever need to defend themselves from bullies, do it. I also taught them diplomacy and frequently expose them to material about body language and lawyering with words, I'm impressed by their growth, I don't think they'll ever need to throw those punches.

Comment deleted.
thump1202

"Let their parents send them to a school for the menttally disabled, which is exactly what they are." You first.

FrederickFan

While bullying is a big problem, this is an issue for Boards of Education to address. An unfunded mandate from the state legislature is not helpful.

thump1202

I believe good parenting can overcome bullying, unfortunately that appears to be in a short supply in our long commuting, dual working parent society.

phydeaux994

In many cases, bullies are created by a parent, usually Dad, who want a “macho” son.

Comment deleted.
niceund

FCPS PRINCIPAL....Nice of you to make your comment political. That's just what is wrong in the classroom. This bill, while admirable, doesn't go far enough. That we agree on. There needs to be a bill which prohibits lawsuits against teachers and staff for keeping order in the classroom. Teachers are there for one reason, to teach. Teachers should not be expected to also be the parent. By making your comments political, you add fuel to the fire.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. No vulgar, racist, sexist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, not personal attacks or ad hominem criticisms.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Be civil. Don't threaten. Don't lie. Don't bait. Don't degrade others.
No trolling. Stay on topic.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
No deceptive names. Apparently misleading usernames are not allowed.
Say it once. No repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link for abusive posts.

Thank you for reading!

Already a member?

Login Now
Click Here!

Currently a News-Post subscriber?

Activate your membership at no additional charge.
Click Here!

Need more information?

Learn about the benefits of membership.
Click Here!

Ready to join?

Choose the membership plan that fits your needs.
Click Here!