Oklahoma Rep. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, who talks passionately about her fight against bullying in Oklahoma, continues to rally support for anti-bullying legislation to provide a voice and help for those who face bullies every day.
She helped propose anti-bullying legislation that would have required school administrators and teachers to undergo training about bullying and how to recognize it. The proposed legislation made it through the House but not the Senate.
And while Pittman believes the measure failed in part because of unfunded mandates for that training, her theory is that a mandate is worth having if it saves a child’s life.
Pittman hasn’t given up on ways to help combat the bullying problem and said she hopes to reintroduce more legislation next term.
Under current bullying-related legislation in Oklahoma, schools are allowed to develop their own bullying policies but Pittman believes more needs to be done.
Pittman, who said many policies aren’t being developed, said others are “not being regulated and enforced.”
When students have already been traumatized by a bully, their parents often have to go to the school or the school board and take on the fight.
And students who are bullied are often punished themselves when they finally fight back and stand up against the bully, she said.
She mentioned Ty Field-Smalley — an 11-year-old boy from Perkins who will never go to the prom, graduate or experience anything celebrated as a monumental milestone in a child’s life.
“At 11, he had barely completed puberty and he shot himself because he was tired of being bullied,” she said.
“For me, bullying has gone to the next level when kids start taking their own lives because no one is listening,” she said.
Pittman, who said everyone has to learn the symptoms of bullying, said there needs to be more active bystanders with courage to step up and intervene.
Rallying for anti-bully legislation and awareness is a passion, with Pittman easily recalling too many stories of the horrors many Oklahoma children have endured.
“It has to stop,” Pittman said. “I love children so much,” she said, adding that she’s can’t imagine what parents do when their child is so tormented that they take their own lives because of a bully.
“I can’t imagine going home and seeing my child’s bed empty,” she said. “How do you move on?”
So she fights for the children of the state of Oklahoma.
“We have a daunting task on our hands as state officials,” she said. “People are injuring kids intentionally and we’ve got to step up.”
Pittman, who remembers growing up with kids having fights and then being best friends for years, said things are different now and bullying is much more prevalent.
Page 2 of 2 - In addition to the physical bullying taking place, more students today are at home and using the Internet after school, so cyberbullying is an issue when threats are made.
As part of the anti-bullying support movement, she rallied with students at the state capitol in May, an event timed near the release of the film, “Bully,” which profiles the consequence of bullying in schools. That rally drew 500 students and grows each year, she said.
The documentary features students from Oklahoma, so Pittman said there’s an obvious problem here although more and more students are standing up against bullying.
“Prevention is the key,” she said. “These kids are speaking out.”
Pittman said parents also have to be proactive while school administrators, teachers and counselors need good documentation procedures and policies in place.
“Kids have to be encouraged they have someone to talk to,” Pittman said.
“It takes us all,” she said, suggesting parents check bullying policies at the schools where their children attend.