Indiana lawmaker hopes to combat bullying at school, online

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH)- You’ve heard it time and time again: Bullying is a problem among Indiana’s youth.

Well, one state lawmaker, Rep. Ryan Hatfield, a Democrat from Evansville, is taking a stance and creating legislation he hopes will bring true change for all Hoosiers.

Bartholomew Fish remembers when he was bullied years ago in high school.

“I was an introverted kid, had bad skin, was awkward,” Fish said. “Yeah, I definitely experienced bullying when I was young.”

Years later, kids across Indiana are dealing with the same problem. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, stopbullying.gov, said in 2015 that 21 percent of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying.

An estimated 16 percent of high school students were bullied online.

The state representative said, “In this state, we have kids committing suicide, contemplating committing suicide. Not only are they harassed at school, when they go home, we’ve opened the floodgates with technology: Facebook, social media.”

Hatfield told 24-Hour News 8 he’s already received dozens of calls from concerned parents. It’s why he’s creating legislation to combat bullying at school and online.

He wants to make sure Indiana state law keeps up with social media.

Hatfield said, “The courts don’t have the authority to grant ‘no contact’ orders when it’s bullying through social media. We need to provide tools to the courts and parents to provide ‘no contact’ orders to keep kids who are being bullied from bullies.”

One Hoosier, Pervis Dansby, of Indianapolis liked the idea. He said, “I think it’s good legislation. I don’t believe in bullying.”

Another Hoosier, Caroline Griffin, said, “I think it’d be a good thing to do research on prior to putting a law out there.”

Finally, the adult who remembers being bullied, Fish said, “Anyone that’s trying to do something to create some change around that, I think that’s a positive thing.”

The state representative said he anticipates bipartisan support and hopes the legislation becomes law by the 2018-19 school year.

People can find bullying prevention resources on the website of the Indiana Department of Education.

A stopbullying.gov page offers resources on dealing with and preventing bullying.