Monday, April 15, 2024

The following is a letter sent to state Senate President Therese Murray and state Sens. Anthony W. Petruccelli and Steven A. Tolman:

Dear Senate President Murray, Senators Petruccelli and Tolman:

I am writing in support of Senate Bill 2283, the anti-bullying legislation. I am a licensed independent clinical social worker with more than 15 years of experience working with special needs children and their families. I am also serving my third term on the Cambridge School Committee and I am the current vice chairman. Through both of these positions, as well as being a parent of two boys, I have had a great deal of professional and personal experience with bullying. I have seen firsthand the devastating effects to both the bully and bullied. I have seen children terrified to attend school, fall into depression, their grades and social interactions forever impacted. The bullying of today is far more intense and prevalent than ever before.

What impresses me about this bill is the efforts made in the area of prevention. I applaud state Rep. Marty Walz for her leadership in ensuring that a bill was crafted that looked at the root of the issue. I know the first reaction when we hear the horror stories or learn about a young person taking their life after being bullied is to focus on punishment and consequences for the bully. The truth is, however, suspending a child for bullying without any other intervention will not solve this problem. We must look at the psychological impact and reasoning behind those who bully and those who are bullied. We must ensure that along with our academic subjects we are teaching our children how to be emotionally healthy, how to be supportive members of the community and how to help when they see an injustice taking place.

These types of interventions are not about having signs on walls that say, “no bullying” or simply creating a policy in a handbook that is put on a shelf. This is about changing the way we look at our school communities. This is about creating an atmosphere that is nurturing, emotionally healthy and safe for all children, regardless of race, class, learning style or sexual orientation. You as legislators have the ability to not only pass legislation that is well thought through but also to fund such legislation to ensure schools have the time, training and programs needed to develop emotionally strong children. In a culture that seems more concerned with standardized testing and attacking public schools, we must realize that teaching our students to be problem solvers, to be positive community members, to treat others with respect and dignity, is as important to their future as scoring well on the MCAS.

I will also say that these programs need to start early and include parents. This bill calls for parent involvement. Schools need to value this involvement. Schools need to provide educational opportunities for parents so that they can learn how to help their children. This is particularly true with cyberbullying, as parenting skills have not caught up with advancements in technology. This is a frontier for parents, and they must be part of any process if we are going to overcome this epidemic.

Thank you for your time and I hope you and others support this legislation.


Marc McGovern Cambridge