Anti-bullying measure fails in Illinois legislature

May 23, 2012

The Illinois Senate has rejected a measure aimed at making schools adopt tougher anti-bullying policies. But supporters may try again.

The legislation would have required schools to spell out how they would investigate allegations, and what would happen to students caught bullying. The bill was sponsored by Chicago Democrat Heather Steans. She says educators have asked the state to clarify its anti-bullying statute.

"This is a growing problem in the state, over 52 percent of students in Illinois say they have been verbally harassed."

But conservative groups, like the Illinois Family Institute, fear the legislation would be used as a cover to lecture students about embracing homosexuality. Republican Senator Kyle McCarter of Lebanon echoed those concerns.

"There are anti-bullying programs that have an agenda to protect only one class of individuals."

Opponents wanted the measure to include an "opt-out'' provision, letting students and teachers skip any lessons that violated their religious beliefs. But supporters of the effort say it's not about indoctrinating people.  The measure fell one vote short. That could prompt the bill's sponsors to try again later this year.