Savino-Ortiz bill would create anti-bullying hotline

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Assemblyman Felix Ortiz sponsors the Assembly version of a bill that would create a bullying hotline in schools to make it easier for victims to alert authorities who have the ability to intervene. Ortiz says the current political climate has created more cases of bullying in schools across the state.

Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz, D-Brooklyn, and Sen. Diane Savino, D-Shore Acres, have introduced a plan to establish a statewide bullying hotline to make it easier for students to report cases to authorities.

The new bill (S.7834/A.9822), which is currently in the Education Committee in both houses, would create a toll-free hotline for reporting instances of bullying in schools to either a state agency or a local social services office.

The hotline service would gather the student’s basic information, such as the school they attend, the bullying situation and what steps to take next. After the report is taken, the Board of Education would be responsible for contacting the school to make sure the school has appropriated the mental health support while the principle would meet with the student’s parents to address the situation.

“The hotline will remain confidential and will help in finding appropriate actions to mediate or to look into possible solutions,” Ortiz said. “We see on social media some kids who do not have anywhere to turn, take their own lives by suicide. They are bullied by their classmates and there is no one for them to talk to because they may feel intimidated or ashamed.”

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, one of the world’s leading research facilities for mental health and addiction issues, almost one-third of students have been bullied at school and more than one-fifth of students have been the bully themselves. Experts say early intervention is the best way to provide a resolution and support for both the victims and bullies.

Bullying is not a new issue, of course, but Ortiz thinks the surge of recent bullying cases can be attributed to the current political climate in the United States. His plan for a toll-free hotline comes after UCLA issued a report on changes in schools since the Trump administration took office in January 2017.

According to the UCLA report, both the social and emotional well-being of students is affected by bullying, which later can cause higher levels of anxiety and depression. The students bullied because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or disability are said to be more likely to miss school and become disengaged from their studies and receive lower grades.

English and social studies teachers noted how there was an increase in derogatory remarks by students about their classmates and targeted individuals faced intimidation and hostility. There was a 27.7 percent increase reported compared to previous years.

With this bill, Savino and Ortiz hope young students will not be the only ones using the hotline as a method of getting help, but also families of those who have been bullied.

Additionally, when there is concerned for the callers safety because of threats made the call would be immediately transferred to 911.

If this bill passes it would take effect immediately.