Students’ mock legislative committee looks at bullying

SALT LAKE CITY – More than 600 high school students from across Utah tackled the issue of bullying on Wednesday in a forum similar to that of a real legislative committee.

High school juniors and seniors gathered at the Utah State Capitol to present mock amendments for an anti-bullying bill.

“Cyberbullying is the biggest problem right now through Facebook, Twitter and texting. Since you are not at school, kids get the mindset that authorities can’t catch them,” said Sarah Roberts, an Emery High School junior.

The goal of the mock session is to show how strong leadership can bring change on any level.

Legislators talked to the students about the legislative process. Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay/Murray, says she was so impressed by the students’ ideas that she’s considering introducing some of their suggestions to improve the anti-bullying bill passed back in 2008.

“I don’t think we’ve done enough and I think we should have some model policies on programs for preventing bullying. Every district does something. Individual schools do assemblies, there are different programs in place, but I think we ought to look at programs
that have worked, that have really limited bullying in the school,” Spackman Moss said.

Some students felt the government should mandate harsher punishment for bullies and criminalize bullying, while others felt school districts and students would be more effective in dealing with the problem.

“We were discussing legal issues and how they intersect with life in the high school cooridors and the students were up to the task. They were able to speak from personal experience. They were able to analyze what the laws mean for them and their friends, so it was a tremendous experience to see how that happens,’ said Cameron Diehl, attorney with the Utah League of Cities and Towns.

Most of the students at Wednesday’s session have shadowed their city councils are part of their own school’s leadership. They say they now feel better prepared for what’s to come.

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