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Idaho House Passes Anti-Bullying Bill

"This thing has lasted in the state of Idaho too long. It's very prominent. It's pervasive."

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Following a full morning of debate March 23, the Idaho House passed House Bill 246, the anti-bullying measure, on a vote of 51-18.

Among the lawmakers who voted against the measure were several Republicans from the Treasure Valley: Reps. Gayle Batt (Wilder), Thomas Dayley (Boise), Steven Harris (Meridian), Jason Monks (Meridian), Mike Moyle (Star), Joe Palmer (Meridian) and John Vander Woude (Nampa).

Rounding out the "no" votes were fellow Republican Reps. Vito Barbieri (Dalton Gardon), Scott Bedke (Oakley), Don Cheatham (Post Falls), Sage Dixon (Ponderay), Shannon McMillan (Silverton), Ron Mendive (Coeur d'Alene), Ronald Nate (Rexburg), Pete Nielsen (Mountain Home), Heather Scott (Blanchard), Kathleen Sims (Coeur d'Alene) and Jeff Thompson (Idaho Falls). 

"This thing has lasted in the state of Idaho too long. It's very prominent. It's pervasive," said bill sponsor Boise Republican Rep. Patrick McDonald, who added that he had received hundreds of emails on the issue.

"Idaho has a problem here," he said.

The bill, which was the subject of emotional testimony before the House Education Committee, establishes an expectation that Idaho schools set policies on bullying and intervene when a child is bullied.

Vander Woude insisted that it was the responsibility of school districts—not the Legislature—to deal with the problem of bullying. Nielsen called the bill "an overreach."

Nampa Republican Rep. Christy Perry, however, told her fellow lawmakers that it was "terrible" when her daughter was bullied at school.  

"We got to the point where our daughter was bruised and bullied," Perry said, adding that she tried to navigate through the administration of her child's school with no success.

Ultimately, she said she told her daughter's older brother to go to the school and beat up the bully. 

"For my child, and for all those other children, let's get started with this," Perry said before casting her "yes" vote.

The measure now heads to the Idaho Senate, but lawmakers are counting down the days of a session that could could wrap in the next few weeks.