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School bullying bill sent to Sandoval for signing

CARSON CITY — A major piece of legislation sought by Gov. Brian Sandoval to combat bullying in schools was approved Monday by the state Assembly, but not before some members questioned the need to rush the measure through.

The bill, approved 36-6, now goes to Sandoval for his signature.

Senate Bill 504 creates the Office for a Safe and Respectful Learning Environment within the Department of Education. It also sets specific requirements on how school officials must deal with incidents of bullying. Administrators, principals and other school officials who knowingly or willfully fail to meet the requirements could be subject to discipline, up to and including dismissal.

The anti-bullying campaign is part of the Republican governor’s education agenda. His budget includes a new program called Social Workers in Schools, which would provide $36 million in grants to combat bullying. Another $300,000 in each of the next two years is also included in the governor’s budget to establish the Office for a Safe and Respectful Learning Environment.

In earlier committee testimony, parents told heart-wrenching accounts of how their young children were harassed and bullied physically and emotionally.

The bill was heard in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday and voted out immediately after the rules were suspended.

But the measure saw opposition from members of Sandoval’s own party.

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, said he has not had a chance to read the bill and there is no need to rush the measure through.

“I’m no proponent of bullying, but I’m not a proponent of phony emergency measures that are not emergencies,” he said.

Similar concerns were expressed by Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, and John Ellison, R-Elko, among others.

Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson, R-Las Vegas, urged passage without delay.

“I am proud of this bill,” he said. “I am proud of what we are doing today. I urge everyone to vote yes.”

Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said the urgency comes with less than three weeks remaining in the session. Lawmakers should rely on their colleagues who heard the measure, he said.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801

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