Senate Committee Rejects Bill Helping Child Bullying Victims
OKLAHOMA CITY – Parent activists expressed dismay on Wednesday, as the Oklahoma State Senate Committee on Education voted to reject a scholarship program designed to help children who are the victims of bullying. Senate Bill 570, authored by Sen. Rob Standridge, created the Hope Scholarship Program Act. The program would have provided a limited number of scholarships to students who experience ongoing bullying at public schools in order to help them attend a private school of their choice.
Cara O’Daniel is an Edmond parent who attended the meeting to support the bill. She said her son is living with a relative in order to switch public schools and escape relentless bullying in her school district.
“I could see the effects that bullying had on my son: physically, mentally and academically,” said O’Daniel. “He lost interest in his favorite activities, had trouble sleeping, and began missing assignments. He eventually was diagnosed with depression and anxiety from the relentless bullying he endured. Our local school district just could not figure out how to keep our child safe.”
O’Daniel said her family exhausted every possible local option to find a place where her son could learn safely and reach his academic potential, including an intra-district transfer. Eventually, he moved in with a relative in a different part of the state.
“A program like the Hope Scholarships could have helped us find a local solution and avoided an incredible hardship for our family,” O’Daniel continued. “We don’t want anyone else to have to go through what we have. I don’t understand how our legislators can vote against a policy designed to help kids and parents in desperate circumstances. Children’s safety and education needs to be their top priority.”
Robert Ruiz, executive director of the parent advocacy organization ChoiceMatters, said that lawmakers were getting caught up in politics and losing sight of the needs of their constituents.
“Every year we see lawmakers reject policies designed to help children and parents because of politics,” said Ruiz. “The people who are hurt the most by that failure are kids trapped in poverty, kids with special needs, or disabilities, or the victims of bullying. These children and their families are suffering because special interest groups in education want to preserve our current system at all costs.”
Lawmakers who opposed the Hope Scholarship Act include Sens. J.J. Dossett, Tom Dugger, John Haste, Carri Hicks, Allison Ikley-Freeman, Chris Kidd, Roland Pederson, Dewayne Pemberton, Paul Scott and Jason Smalley.
Senators voting in favor included David Bullard, Marty Quinn, Wayne Shaw, Joe Newhouse, Gary Stanislawski and Greg Treat.