Sentinel & Enterprise
Posted: 01/02/2011 06:38:11 AM EST
By Sarah Favot
Boston University Statehouse Program
BOSTON -- After years of legislative wrangling it took a tragedy to get a tough new anti-bullying law approved on Beacon Hill this year.
But not all are happy with the law that was passed after the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, a South Hadley High School student bullied by classmates, made international headlines.
Some school principals say they must rewrite successful anti-bullying programs that were in effect before the Legislature passed the new law in May. Anti-bullying advocates say the law doesn't go far enough. One legal expert warns that vague language could open the door to many cases that fall short of real bullying.
Sean Varano, a criminal justice professor at Roger Williams University, says the law allows any student to file a complaint of bullying if he or she considers any kind of problem with a fellow student as emotionally harmful.
Varano said under the definition, a kindergartner telling a classmate she wouldn't be invited to his birthday party could be charged with causing emotional harm.
"I believe that the legislation as written was a disaster," Varano said in an interview. "The legislators created a Pandora's Box and I don't think they have any idea of the implications in schools."