The House is expected to approve legislation as early as Monday that would provide grant money to states to fight bullying at schools.
"It is time for us to stand together and stop bullying," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), the sponsor of the bill. "Everyone deserves to feel safe and free from persecution.
The bill, H.R. 6019, would refine a current law that already allows federal grants for programs meant to boost school safety. But it adds more specificity to this provision, and allows for the grants to cover school safety programs that "may include research-based bullying prevention, cyberbullying prevention and gang prevention programs, as well as intervention programs regarding bullying."
Grants to fight bullying would be permitted under the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program, along with many others, such as grants to help states expand juvenile detention centers and hire judges to hear juvenile cases. The bill would also reauthorize that broad program and let it spend $40 million a year for the next five years.
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Jackson Lee said recent studies show that one-third of all high school students have said violence is a serious problem at their schools, which she said makes it an epidemic.
"Bullying is not just a schoolyard anymore, it is a crisis that's taking over our nation," she said. In addition, she noted that cyberbullying makes it easier for bullies to torment people outside of school.
"Gone are the days that children can come home and seek solace and escape from their bullies; technological advances have made it easy for young people to be tormented on social networks at any time from any place," she said. "They are never out of harm's reach. This needs to end."
The bill is backed by six Democrats, but also House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), and will be brought up Monday afternoon under a suspension of House rules. That process is usually reserved for non-controversial bills, and requires a two-thirds majority vote for passage.
Democrats on the bill are Reps. Janice Hahn (Calif.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas), John Lewis (Ga.), Charles Rangel (N.Y.) and Laura Richardson (Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.).