Parents concerned House Bill 1 not addressing real issue of bullying

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new bill proposed in the Florida House of Representatives aims to protect students from bullying but, some say it doesn’t address the bigger problem.

House Bill 1 establishes the Hope Scholarship Program which allows students who have experienced bullying to transfer to another public school or receive a voucher to attend a private school. Meanwhile, the bully gets to stay put.

Parents seem to have mixed reaction but agreed that bulling is definitely an issue students face in our school districts every day.

“My immediate reaction to that is no way. I don’t want my child to have an interactive learning opportunity,” said Jody Bird.

Jacob Peardon is a father of two who doesn’t think the bill is necessarily a solution but rather, a step in the right direction. 
“I do think that it’s a good thing that they are trying to come up with something to tackle the issue of bullying. I do think it is an issue; whether it is not to take the kids that are getting bullied out or to maybe take the kid that is actually doing the bullying out, something has to be done, so I think any progress is good progress,” said Peardon.
The bill’s analysis says bullying and violence in schools causes students to experience trauma which in turn hurts their overall learning experience. 

READ MORE: House of Representatives Staff Analysis

In the 2015-2016 school year, the Florida Department of Education said there were more than 2,800 cases of bullying across the state. In our area, there were 96 reported cases of bullying in Duval County. Clay and St Johns Counties had 26 cases each.
Under House Bill 1, a student is eligible for a scholarship or transfer if he or she has been subjected to incidents that more than 47,000 Florida students dealt with last year including, but not limited to bullying, threats, harassment, and fighting.

If the student enrolls in a school outside his or her district, the student would then be eligible for a transportation scholarship.

Richard Corcoran, Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives released the following statement:

 “The Hope scholarship provides a way for parents to get their children out of a dangerous or abusive situation and into an environment where they can get a world-class education.  The cost to society as a whole of forcing children to stay in an abusive situation and as a result have a broken future and shattered dreams is unacceptable."

News4Jax checked with Duval, St. Johns and Clay County school districts for their reaction. 

St. Johns County Superintendent Tim Forson stated:
“We have concerns with this bill as it makes no reference to any school capacity guidelines which seems to be in direct conflict with recent Controlled Open Enrollment/Choice legislation. In addition, the word “investigate” is referenced multiple times within the Bill but there is no reference to substantiated or unsubstantiated pending the outcome.”

This article will be updated as soon as a statement is received from Duval County Public Schools and the Clay County school board.

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