Madison Junior Girl Scout Troop Lawmakers at the Capitol
Posted by: Hannah J on Aug 21, 2013
What issue did your Take Action project address?
During October, 2012, Jacque, 10 years old in the 5th grade, was significantly bullied during school. At first, the classmate taunted and intimidated her verbally and physically. The bullying went unaddressed because Jacques report of the hostile behavior resulted in the teachers simply reprimanding the other student and instructing each girl to get along or ignore each other. This of course, fueled the fire of hatred and prompted the student to ensure she and her friends were conducting their intimidation away from the supervision of teachers. The situation predictably escalated, and the classmate, engaging the assistance of her friends, physically attacked Jacque. During one recess, they hooked her by her arms, escorted her away from adult supervision; one girl knocked her down, stomped on her and choked her. Jacques friends and members of her Girl Scout troop, came to her rescue. As they led her away to safety, Jacques friend, Christine, encouraged her to tell a teacher about the incident. Jacque had already had this experience and was not optimistic about the outcome of adult intervention at this point. She did as Christine suggested, and, the teacher did exactly what Jacque feared; simply told the girls to stay away from each other.
Upon her learning of the event, Jacques parent contacted the parents of the children involved. We met together and while one child, quite remorsefully, admitted to the acts of bullying, while the leader of the aggression did not. While meeting with the school administrator and witnessing her interview Jacque, it became apparent, the principal and designated safe school climate coordinator, had no training or skills in investigating acts of bullying. She was completely ineffective at interviewing the students to determine what happened. She admitted that she had never been trained. As a result, the classmates who had conducted the bullying were never brought to atone for their behavior. They received no intervention to help them; clearly those who engage in such aggressive behavior also suffer. So, no consequence for unacceptable behavior, no intervention for any of the students involved, no change in the school environment or culture.
The anti-bullying law requires that acts of bullying must be verified,that is to say, pictures, texts, physical injury. Further, it must be more than a single incident. When I explained to my daughter that the principal was unable to verify that she was bullied because teachers didnt see it, there were no pictures or physical evidence of injury, and that the physical injury occured only once, Jacque replied, Then, the law must be changed.
What was your Take Action Project? Who did you involve in your project?
Jacque knew her local House Representative, Noreen Kokoruda, because Ms. Kokoruda is a lifetime Girl Scout. The troop visited her during our participation to Girl Scouts Day at the Capitol in past years. Jacque emailed Ms. Kokoruda to learn how to change the law. They agreed to meet at Starbucks and Ms. Kokoruda agreed to draft a bill to amend the law to include investigator and other trainings to increase awareness about incidences of bullying/hostile behavior for all teachers in the schools. And so, in January 2013, HB 6274 was drafted.
Jacque brought her idea to her Girl Scout Troop members and asked for their support. Having been a member of Girl Scouts for 5 years, Jacque had already gained experience in leading activities in her troop, sticking with challenging situations even though she may have been afraid at first, and problem solving with a group. She encouraged each girl to share experiences with bullying that had gone unaddressed and how badly it affected her.
Girl Scout Troop #62086 launched a campaign to increase awareness at the Capitol and at their school, of how much bullying goes unverified and why. The girls sent emails to the legislators on the Education Committee urging their support of the bill. They included information and statistics about about the prevelance of unaddressed bullying and the severe and significant negative impact it has on children and teens. They made posters which were presented at the Capitol during this year's Girl Scout Day at the Capitol on February 27, and met with various legislators to push for support for their bill. Jacque began a peer-support group at school with Christine Padberg, her Scout sister, to address issues of bullying. They initiated a;No Name Calling; pledge week and had all the 5th and 6th graders sign the pledge. They hung their posters in the halls. The troop wanted bring out the facts that cases of bullying are going unproven because of this lack of effective anti-bullying and investigator training; that acts of bullying are invisible to adults; parents and teachers are often completely unaware that bullying has started; that 83% of children report that watching bullying makes them uncomfortable, and that 85% of bullying takes place in front of others yet bystanders never assist.
The Troop continued emailing their legislators, sending in more statistics and information about the tragedies that occur everyday due to ongoing, unverified bullying.
What were the results? How did it affect the community?
On May 1st, I received this email.
Dear Hannah (Jacques mom),
I would like to thank you for expressing your concern regarding the shortfalls contained in last yea's bullying legislation. It has become apparent that last year's legislation did not go far enough to address the problem at hand. I am proud to tell you that there has been further action taken to include training for bullying related investigations in state law.
Let me first say that the advice that you gave me during our meeting has proven invaluable. The idea to include training for bullying related investigations was refined into a bill I proposed in January. I introduced the bill entitled, AN ACT CONCERNING TRAINING FOR THE INVESTIGATION AND MANAGEMENT OF CLAIMS OF SCHOOL BULLYING, Proposed H.B. No. 6274. This bill would have required, district safe school climate coordinator and the safe school climate specialist for a school district to participate in training regarding the investigation and management of claims of school bullying under the districts safe school climate plan. The reason that I did not invite you to the Capitol to testify is that this particular bill was not given a public hearing, but the ideas expressed in it were incorporated into the recently adopted gun and school safety legislation officially entitled, An Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Childrens Safety, S.B. No. 1160, Public Act No. 13-3.
I would like to take this time to thank you for the initiative that you showed throughout this lengthy legislative process. Your spirited support of this legislation truly made a difference and helped to both refine and adopt the ideas that you set forward. I saw firsthand the efforts that you made in your school and during your troops meetings, including the anti-bullying posters. Needless to say, I am very impressed. These are truly great deeds that deserve to be applauded. I knew that I could expect nothing less from the wonderful young ladies of Girl Scout Troop 62086.
I look forward to hearing other ideas that you have for bills still to come and please make sure to keep up the good work. I hope you have a great summer and look forward to see you around town soon.
Noreen S. Kokoruda
What did you learn from the experience?
A Junior girl scout troop had been successful in changing the law. They gained confidence as leaders, with a clear and simple message; with passion and conviction; and with seemingly endless persistence to see that right action was taken. Jacque says, I am not sorry it happened. If it wasnt for that experience, we would not have been doing what we are doing now; getting a new law passed. For all of their efforts, they were awarded the Bronze Award in May 2013.