By DAVID EGGERT
LANSING (AP) - Michigan school districts would have to add cyberbullying to their anti-bullying policies and report bullying data annually to the state under a bill passed Tuesday in the Senate, where its chief advocate is hopeful for quick approval on the other side of the Capitol.
The Senate voted 30-7 to endorse the requirements, which were sent to the House for potential consideration before the lame-duck session ends next week. The legislation, which would die if the House declines to act, is designed to address gaps in a 2011 law that requires K-12 districts and charter schools to have anti-bullying policies on the books.
Sen. Glenn Anderson, the bill sponsor, said student bullying done through social media, texting and instant messaging is probably more prevalent than physical bullying.
"It is a very serious problem," the Westland Democrat said. "To fail to address that, we'll continue to see children abused in our districts and damaged and lives taken. It's something that we cannot continue to ignore."
Opponents of the measure questioned how schools and the state are supposed to stop cyberbullying, which is often done outside school grounds.
"The Internet is not something that fits into a box on the playground," said Sen. Patrick Colbeck, a Republican from Wayne County's Canton Township who argued that the legislation would have no "substantive impact on the real problem of bullying in our schools."
Schools already have to report bullying incidents to their local boards of education. Under the bill, they also would be required to send the information annually to the Michigan Department of Education.
Anderson said having statewide data would help measure whether the law has an effect. He had an ally in Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican who said cyberbullying is a "huge problem" in his Lansing-area district.
He said when the school bullying law was signed three years ago, Gov. Rick Snyder mentioned wanting to address cyberbullying.
"I've heard from numerous parents that their child has been bullied and can no longer go to school," Jones said. "They've had to pay a great deal of money to put them in a private school because they feel they can no longer attend a public school, which is their right."
Sen. Mike Green of Mayville, one of seven Republicans to vote against the bill, said GOP senators discussed the legislation extensively behind closed doors before the vote.
"They could do it themselves," he said of school districts. "We don't need to tell them everything they can do."
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