Bullying Legislation in Colorado 2021

By Dru Ahlborg, BRRC

As our nation and our state begin cautiously to emerge from the pandemic, we are starting to congregate and socialize and children are heading back to in-person learning on a permanent basis. While most kids (and their families) are delighted at this development, many, unfortunately, are not.

Bullying, always a problem in our society, changed its shape during the lockdown as in-person bullying took a hiatus and cyberbullying saw a significant uptick.  Now in-person bullying is expected to come roaring back as schools once again open their doors and children come flooding in after a very stressful time for many families. 

The good news for children in Colorado is that we are finally recognizing that bullying is an epidemic in our state and our country.  The Colorado Model Bullying Prevention and Education Policy was adopted in July, 2019 to provide guidance to school districts in developing bullying prevention and education.

 It is time, though, to improve this document.  Colorado House Bill 21-1221 (Jack and Cait’s Law) will utilize the stakeholder process when updating the model policy and must include parents of students who have been bullied.  The bill also requires schools to report bullying and provides clarification of conflict versus bullying. The role of cyberbullying during online instruction is also addressed. 

Jack Padilla and Caitlyn Haynes, the Colorado children for whom the bill is named, tragically ended their lives after being relentlessly bullied.  The suicides of Jack and Cait are illustrative of a much larger problem, however. According to the 2019 National Center for Educational Statistics, one out of every five (20.2 percent) students report being bullied. 

The Cyberbullying Research Center breaks down bullying by states and in 2019, 83.5 percent of Colorado students reported having been bullied at some time, and 65.8 percent reported being bullied in the past 30 days (A significant jump from 2016 when it was reported at 51.5 percent).

The Center for Disease Control tells us that students who experience bullying are at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school. 

Additionally, there are alarming statistics about the link between suicide and bullying.  A Yale University Study found that bullying targets are two to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-targets and a study in Britain revealed that at least half the suicides of young people are related to bullying.

We as a state must take a stand against bullying and teen suicide.  It will take legislative action   to ensure that bullying is properly reported, that bullying is properly addressed, and that fine-tuning the Bullying Model Policy includes adults whose lives have been strongly impacted.  It is time to reduce bullying and teen suicide in our state. HB 21-1221 will be a great start!

For kids who are being bullied – and their families – please know that there are ways to get help now! Here is a list of resources:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day via phone or chat: 1-800-273-8255

Colorado Crisis Services is available 24 hours a day via phone: 1-844-493-8255 or text “Talk” to 38255

Safe 2 Tell receives anonymous reports about anything that threatens you, your family or your community: 1-877-542-7233

Bullying Recovery Resource Center aids children and their families through education and advocacy who are dealing with bullying.  303-991-1397 or www.bullyingrecoveryresourcecenter.org