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A Watch-dog Organization - Advocating for Bullied Children
& Reporting on State Anti Bullying Laws
Bully Police USA: 
Reporting on State Anti Bullying Laws
& Advocating for Bullied Children

HOW TO GET AN ANTI BULLYING
AND HARASSMENT LAW IN YOUR STATE

A "TRAVEL LOG" IN ARIZONA
by Brenda High
October 16th through November 5, 2003

 

November 5th 2003

The day the John Walsh Show aired (mid October) with information about www.BullyPolice.org,  I headed to Arizona to try to convince lawmakers to start an Anti Bullying Law.  I've now spent over three weeks with my friend, Donna Flanigan, talking to numerous elected officials and we have made a lot of progress.  We have visited with two Congressmen, a short visit with U.S. Senator Jon Kyle and several State Legislators as well as some key people at the State Superintendents office, Program Directors with the Olweus Anti Bullying Program and other important State office holders.

In hopes of helping others to get an anti bullying and harassment law in their State, I've documented my activities in Arizona.  Its been a great three weeks.  Here is a "Travel Log" of my activities.
 

Thursday and Friday October 16th and 17th

The first order of business was to make some phone calls to news media and old friends.  My goal was to start setting appointments with State Legislators to talk about the anti bullying agenda.

Before coming to Arizona, I had previously interviewed with The Scottsdale Tribune, which has hundreds of thousands of readers in Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, etc., as well as East Maricopa County.  A second interview took place the day after I got into town October 16th.  A short introductory article article came out on Sunday the 12th, telling people of a meeting to discuss bullying at the Scottsdale Community Center on Friday the 17th.

Friday morning a full article in the Scottsdale Tribune came out about me and the anti bullying law cause.  It was great except a couple of comments about whether a law is needed from a lawmaker, worried about the cost.  Also, the Arizona Department of Education chief, Tom Horne, commented that he did not "think a legislative mandate was the answer.  We are getting schools to work with us voluntarily.”  (This may be true about the voluntary effort, but is the year 2099 too long to wait for them to all get on board?  It could take forever for every school district in Arizona to decide they’ve got a problem with bullying.  Most schools are in complete denial that a Columbine type shooting and suicide, could happen to them.)  See this article at http://www.bullypolice.org.scottsdale_tribune.html.

Friday afternoon, I was surprised to hear a talk radio station (KFYI) addressing bullying and whether there should be a law to stop bullying.  It was interesting listening.  One of the Talk Show Hosts, Tom Liddy is related to Gorden B. Liddy, (G. B. Liddy’s son).  He is very bright, but uneducated about bullying and the magnitude of the problem in our schools.  His line of thought is that children should “get tough” and fight back to stop the bullying; that bullying should be handled at each school as administrators decide it should be, and that we didn’t need another law.  I understand and realize that the old, “Boys will be boys” attitude is be a big issue to overcome.

(A note: Bullying is not a partisan issue and should not be treated as such.  Children of Democrats, Republicans and Independents are bullied in school, as well as becoming bullies.  My job is to help bullied children survive and grow up, …as well as get the bullies help.)

The meeting was low attended, about a dozen people.  Some people might become discouraged and quit at this point, but “some people” don’t loose kids because of bullying.  What happened to Jared drives me on.  I found the support I needed in just the few people that were there, including Donna Flanigan, an old political friend.
 

Saturday October 18th

Don’t get me riled up!  I’ll spend all day writing an email to make my point if I have too.  And, that is what I did on this day.  I found Tom Liddy’s email address and sent him an email addressing the need for an anti bullying law, and why bullying needs to stop in Arizona.  He sent me an email Monday evening countering my email and I sent him one back again.  Back and forth we went until I felt he had softened on the issue.  I like him and I count him as an understanding friend as it sits today, although I’m not sure I’ve totally softened him up yet.
 

October 20th and 21st

Donna and I got on the phone Monday to set some appointments for the week.  On Tuesday came our first “V.I.P.” visit with Rep. Linda Gray – House Education Committee Chairman.
 

Donna, Rep. Linda Gray and Brenda

This morning Linda Gray listened intently and was very interested in helping. Having the House Education Chair supportive of a bill is very important. After listening with us for an hour, Donna and I were convinced that she would introduce an anti bullying law.  From this point on we knew we had to find allays for her in both Houses and in both political parties, but especially the Republican Party, as both Houses (Senate and House) are controlled by Republicans.

Now, I don’t want to say anything negative about Republicans, mostly because I am one, but I’ve found that Republicans can be as closed minded with the best of them.  In Washington State, for example, it was the Republicans that stalled an anti bullying law for a whole year, but in the end, it was also the Republicans that got the law passed.  Its my job, as an activist, to educate lawmakers in both parties about bullying.  Hopefully the people we have elected as our Representatives will have some good common sense.  A good anti bullying and harassment law will embody good common sense.

I was very lucky to have Donna Flanigan with me as we roamed the House and Senate buildings.  She introduced me to everyone she knew, as well as some she didn’t – Not a shy person, that’s for sure.  The House Chairman, Jake Flake was walking through the outside plaza and Donna found him for a quick visit and introduction.  Donna has been active in Republican politics for many years and it appeared like she knew just about everyone she saw.

At 11:30 AM we get in a call to the State Superintendents Office (ADE – Arizona Department of Education).  They agree to meet with us.  We met with Lillie Sly, Associate Superintendent Federal Programs and Art Harding, Director of Legislative Affairs.  They listened very intently for about 40 minutes and were very interested in helping us.  Hopefully they can talk with their Boss, Tom Horne, about changing some of his viewpoints on getting a law passed in Arizona.
 

October 22nd

Donna is drugged up after a visit with the Dentist, so I’m on my own.  I get a tip that another House Legislator wants to meet me so I head on down to the State Capitol.  I met for about 20 minutes with Rep. Phil Lopes, a well liked Democrat on the Education committee.  He was very nice and very supportive.

 
Arizona House - Representative Phil Lopes

Rep. Lopes has been working with a Teacher in Tucson who, with the help of her class, (I think 8th grade), worked on what he felt would be a great anti bullying law.  He felt he could work with Linda Gray to get an anti bullying bill introduced.

While in the waiting room, waiting to meet Rep. Lopes, I met an activist and lobbyist by the name of Alberto Gutier.  Interesting man.  It seems everywhere Donna and I went for the next two weeks, he was also there.  He's a Republican, of Cuban ancestry, and loves America and it's politics.  I'm hopeful he will help us with our cause.

I also met the owners and editors of The Arizona Hispanic, a Hispanic newspaper.  I may do a story with them at a later date.
 

October 23rd

A somewhat negative editorial came out entitled, “Wrong way to tame bullies,” in the Scottsdale Tribune today.  The writer felt that a law wasn’t needed, as the bullying problem could take care of itself at the local level.  The problem is that very few schools are doing anything.  Schools must be prodded and poked along to take any action setting School District policy and finding good anti bullying programs. I would bet a million dollars (which I don’t have, of course) that less than 10% of the schools in Arizona have an actual anti bullying specific policy (gear towards bullying and nothing else).  The comment the writer gave was that, “…teachers and parents must take reports of bullying seriously.  They must be able to distinguish between harmless teasing and malicious taunts and threats – or worse.  That requires not another law, but conscientious, caring parents, teachers and administrators.”

I got permission to write a Special Rebuttal to the Tribune to answer this editorial.

I met Laura Knaperek on the phone today.  She's a former Arizona State House member and political strategist. She has some great ideas on how, what, where, who, and when to get the issue of bullying on the legislative agenda.

Friday October 24th

I talked with Dr. Ron Marek Ph.D. who has formulated an anti bullying program that uses Martial Arts inside the schools.  His program sounded interesting to me.  Hopefully I will get more information from him at a later date.  Dr. Marek had read about me in the newspaper.

I worked on the Editorial rebuttal all day and into the night.  It had to be just perfect.  Judy Kuczynski, of the Power Of One Foundation, (www.powerofonefoundation.org)  edited the article and helped me get everything just right.  (See http:www.bullypolice.org/whyalaw.html  for a copy of the rebuttal)
 

Saturday October 25th

Donna Flanigan and I went to a "Town Hall" meeting this morning.  We met Arizona Senator Jon Kyle and Congressman J. D. Hayworth.  I'll have to say that Congressman Hayworth really impressed me.  I wasn't able to spend much time talking to either of them about the issue of bullying, (as there was a huge crowd), but Donna and I did get to talk to Congressman Hayworth's' aide, Brian Murray.  Brian believes that J. D. Hayworth would give his support at both the Federal and State levels to do something about bullying.  Brian said that Congressman Hayworth would feel that Federal Anti Bullying legislation was, “A no brainer.” (A must do)

I made sure that Brian knew, that the "No Child Left Behind Act" DOES NOT cover bullying and harassment.  In fact, the words "bullying" and "harassment" are not even mentioned in the Act.  He agreed that something needs to be done at the State and Federal levels to help our kids.
 

Monday October 27th

This was a very busy and productive day.

Donna and I started out by visiting with Sen. Thayer Verschoor.  He is absolutely sweet.  He cried when I told him the story about my son Jared.  I think we were able to answer most of his questions effectively and we will get his support to help with this law.

Donna and I met Rep. Karen Johnson in the hallway before heading off to the State Senate building.  I had talked with Karen a couple of weeks before coming to Arizona to get some ideas on who would be essential to talk to and what issues I should have a strong and intelligent answers to about bullying.  As a "mover and shaker" in Arizona politics, I'm hoping she comes out as a vocal supporter of our anti bullying and harassment bill.

 
Brenda High &
Sen. Thayer Verschoor
Brenda High
& Rep. Karen Johnson
 
Donna, Rep. John Huppenthal
& Brenda
Arizona Senate
Chambers
Next Stop - still in the morning hours, Donna and I headed over to the Senate Chambers to visit with Rep. John Huppenthal.  He seemed very interested in helping the Senate get something done to stop bullying in Arizona and has a special devotion to kids.  I was impressed with several VERY large pictures of his daughters on his wall.

During lunch, Donna and I are on our cell phones calling anyone, and everyone, who we could meet with; The Attorney General's Office, The Governors Office, The Secretary of State, and The Maricopa County Education officials, etc.

Secretary of State Jan Brewer used to be a legislator in my district when I lived in Phoenix 13 years ago.  My son, Jared, was born in Phoenix in 1985.  Donna also knew Jan during those "olden" days, so we thought a visit might be in order.  Although the Secretary of State would have very little to do with an anti bullying law, having her support with her friends in other political offices can be very important.

 
Secretary of State, 
Jan Brewer & Donna
Brenda, Jan & Donna
 
Donna, Sandra & Brenda
Donna & Maricopa Ed Chief, Sandra Dowling

Donna got a call from Sandra Dowling's office saying she could meet with us in the afternoon.  She is the elected Education official for Maricopa County.  She was so supportive that she volunteered to come with me to California (if I'm able) and help to get an anti bullying bill started there.  She knows many VIP's in California State office.  Her enthusiasm was a breath of fresh air and she knew the issue well as she had dealt with bullying on a personal level - her son was bullied.

The day was now moving on and we had one more important visit, Congressman John Shadegg.  He was so very kind and very concerned about the bullying issues we related.  He felt it would be important to get something started at the federal level.  He seemed open saying, “This is something that needs to be done.”  When we talked about Grants offered to schools to get anti bullying programs, he agreed that they were just sitting there waiting for school districts to apply for.  Most schools don't know how easy these Grants are to get.

 
Donna Flanigan, Congressman John Shadegg and Brenda
Wednesday October 29th
 
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano & Brenda
I got up VERY early this morning to get to a breakfast meeting where Gov. Napolitano would be.  There was such a huge crowd that I worried I would not be able to meet her and tell her about our trying to get an anti bullying law into Arizona.  However, I'm a bold "mama on a mission" and I just made my way down to the stage before she was to speak.  I gave her a copy of the report put out by Fight Crime: Invest In Kids (www.fightcrime.org).  She commented that she was at the Commission meeting in Washington D.C. when this report was put out.  I said, "Yes, the one where Miss America, Erica Harold, was."

The Governor shot back, "Yes, some people confused me with her!"

Great sense of humor and quick wit!  Governor Napolitano said she could support an anti bullying bill after seeing what the State Legislature sent her.  That's fair.  Arizona kids definitely need her support.

Donna, meanwhile, was setting more appointments for the afternoon.  Finally, we would meet with the Senate Education Chairman, Toni Hellon.

 
Brenda & Sen. Toni Hellon
Brenda & Sen. Carolyn Allen
Senator Toni Hellon was very kind and supportive.  She asked a lot of pointed questions about appropriations, as Arizona is in a fiscal shortfall and extra money can't be found.  We told her about the Washington Anti Bullying and Harassment Law.  Washington State found several ways for the State Superintendent to implement this law unfunded, including web site policies, programs and classes for teachers and administrators. We also mentioned that there are Grants just waiting for school districts to apply for, as Congressman Shadegg had mentioned. (See http://www.bullypolice.org/wa_law.html)

Next we stopped in to see Scottsdale Senator Carolyn Allen, who was very curious about what our issue was all about.  After talking to Senator Allen for a few minutes, we stopped into see Senator Barbara Leff who was interested in helping our anti bullying cause even though she's not on the Education Committee.  Sooner or later the support of all Senators and House members will be needed so we wanted to touch base with as many lawmakers as possible.

 

Brenda & Senator Barbara Leff

Everywhere we went we were getting support.
 

Friday October 31st

Donna and I met Senator Slade Mead at a Bagel Restaurant (a first for me) in Ahwatukee, Senator Mead's district.  I was amazed at his skill for remembering names and places.  He recommended that we meet with several other individuals.  Since my time is about up here in Arizona, Donna will be doing most of the legwork from here on out.  As a member of a School Board, Senator Mead has a keen interest in children and their needs.  Senator Mead also related an incident when his brother was bullied and he knew how hurt his brother was because of it.  Donna and I are hopeful that we will have his full support for an anti bullying law.  (I'm very upset I didn't get a picture with Senator Mead - doggone!)

 
Senator Slade Mead
Vice Chair - Ed Committee
Brenda, Xavier Morales & Gail Chadwick, Arizona Prevention Resources Center
One of the most educational visits Donna and I had was with The Arizona Prevention Resource Center in Downtown Phoenix where we met with Xavier Morales and Gail Chadwick, Directors of the Olweus (O-vey-us) program that is currently being implemented into several school districts.  It was a thrill to find others who understand what bullying is and how to stop it proactively.  They were so nice and they even gave us free books!  (Easy Reading - Bullying at School, Understanding Children's world by Dan Olweus)
 

November 3rd through 5th

Donna is doing most of the work now.  She's talked with Senator Mark Anderson, and several other lawmakers as well as running books (Olweus) to Lawmakers and Education officials.  Arizona is in good hands now.

I hope that Donna's and my efforts can inspire others to “step out of the comfort zone” for bullied children and teens.  ASK your elected officials to make a difference for the kids in your State by enacting an anti bullying law.  The worst that could happen is that they would say no – but so far, none of the Arizona Representatives has said no.

A good friend once told me, "Get on the phone and ask for what you want.  If they say yes, you are on your way, and if they say no, well, there's no blood on the floor, just get on the phone again."  I got through the last few weeks with no blood on the floor - I "think" Donna did too.

There is still so much to do and very little time to do it; but thankfully, Donna Flanigan will be taking over for the kids when I’m gone.  I'm about to pack up my computer now and head home to Washington State.  I will add to this "Travel Log" as pertinent information comes to me.
 

UPDATE
February 24th through February 28, 2004

Donna Flanigan gave me a call in early February and announced that an anti bullying bill, House Bill 2533, would be on the agenda at a House Education Committee Hearing on February 25th.  So, looking at my calendar, I decided that I'd take a road trip to Arizona, visit my parents, and give my testimony at the Committee Hearing.

Tuesday

With a little calling back and forth on Tuesday, and comparing notes, Donna and I prepared to visit the State House Education Committee the next day.

 Wednesday

We were pleasantly surprised that there were several supporters of HB 2533 ready to testify and NO ONE to testify against the bill.  Representative Lopes, Sherralyn Bludau (a teacher, whose 8th grade class worked with Rep Lopes), Donna, myself and a parent of a bullied child, were able to testify at the committee, as well as a few others.  I believe we all did a good job. 

After the testimony, a vote was taken by the Education Committee - 11 for HB 2533, and 1 very quiet no vote by Rep. John Allen.  His thought was that Arizona already has enough laws to cover bullying.  I'd like to know what laws he is referring to, however.

It now goes to the Judicial Committee - I'll post the progress of this bill at a later date.

Saturday

Dianne Moore, a writer who has done lots of research on bullying, as well as written articles about bullying, invited me to meet with Shirley Catanzaro who has a radio program once a week on Saturday afternoon.  So, Shirley, Dianna and I, had a go at "talk radio" for an hour with some great discussions about bullying.  Mark Shander and Bob Dent produced the show at 1620 AM KFHX, in Fountain Hills Arizona.  I hope this experience will be repeated some time in the future.

 

Mark and Dianne

Shirley, Brenda and Dianne
On Sunday, it was back on the road again for home.  The next time I go to Arizona, however, I might fly.   Although I love to drive, it's just too long to be away from my husband, AND my computer.

Update... Again

April 2004 - The Senate takes up the bullying bill that dies in the House Judiciary Committee (One Chairman who chooses not to put it on the agenda).  The Senate Education committee passes the bill 9 to 0.

May 2004 - The Rules Committee Chairman chooses not to act on the bill.  It dies.  Winston Churchill said, "Never, never, never, give up!"  And, we will never give up in Arizona either.

LAW PASSES IN 2005 - See www.bullypolice.org/az_law.html


IDEA LIST - GETTING AN ANTI BULLYING LAW PASSED

 

1) Contact State Legislative & Senate Education Committee Chairs.  Get (and bookmark) all their email addresses and start emailing your story or someone else’s story to them every couple of days.  Think of this as “righteous” spam.  (You can do a search on Google for your State Legislative info and then search for Committee assignments)
2) Give your friends all their email addresses and ask them to do the same.
3) After three or four emails, call and set appointments to visit with the Committee Chairs, State House and State Senate.  Take some friends along with you.
4) When I visit legislators, I’ll take with me four or five written laws from other States who have enacted anti bullying laws and give them copies.  Hopefully this will save them some time when they are writing their own law. (www.bullypolice.org)
5) Find a high profile ally to take with you. (Some ideas might be a well-known football player, a State beauty queen, the Fire Captain, a favorite local star – think BIG).  If you can bring a well liked political ally, particularly in the party that controls the State Legislature, this could be a bonus too.
6) Set and hold a meeting with parents and other interested people at a local library or community center.  Get your newspaper to do a story on your meeting and how you plan to organize a committee to help get a law passed to help our kids.  Post your meeting times in colleges and community centers around the area.  If you can get about 20 people to your meeting, you've done really good.
7) Bring a Legislator to your meeting.  Have them speak for a few minutes on how to lobby for a law and why laws are important.
8) Write letters to the editor about the anti bullying cause.
9) Have an informal visit with the State Education Superintendent and talk about what a good law might look like.  Talk about programs and policies that schools can implement with very little cost.  (www.fightcrime.org)
10)   Don't be afraid to meet with the Governor, Congressmen, U.S. Senator's and other higher office elected individuals.  Their influence and support can be very important.  I know this thought scares most people, but just remember, these people spit in the sink when they brush their teeth, just like everyone else (assuming they brush their teeth ;-} ).
 

Moms Speak Out!

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