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Washington Lawmakers Consider ‘Emotional Harm’ As Form Of Bullying

Olympia Washington State Legislature
Flickr Photo/Harvey Barrison (CC BY-NC-ND)

The definition of bullying in Washington could be expanded to include any act of "emotional harm" against a student.

State lawmakers took testimony Thursday on this potentially controversial revision to the state’s anti-bullying law.

Supporters say the change is needed to address forms of harassment that can lead to depression and even suicide. However, opponents argue the term "emotional harm" is overly broad.

Brian Schraum, who teaches journalism at Green River Community College, worries his student reporters could run afoul of the law. He presented a hypothetical situation: "I’m working for the student newspaper and I accurately report that 'John Smith' missed a field goal that cost the foot ball team a championship, reporting that may hurt the students feelings."

Emotional harm is not currently defined in the proposed legislation.

The measure would also insure that student handbooks have the latest policy on cyberbullying.

The Washington Senate has already approved the anti-bullying expansion with nearly unanimous support. It’s now under consideration in the state House.

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