Arkansas Act 681 of 2003 and Act 907

Arkansas’ original anti bullying law was contained in Act 681 of 2003. The law passed in this bill was later updated to expand the definitions and coverage of this anti bullying legislation. This expansion came with the passing of Act 907 in 2011. With the recent passing of this latest act, Arkansas now has a full protection of student’s rights at state educational settings to include school property, buses and bus stops. Additionally the protection against electronic harassment of students and school employees has been created.

The initial legislation against bullying are covered within Arkansas State Act 681 which stated purpose was to make mandatory the adoption of anti-bullying polices by all school districts within the state. These policies were to cover incidents on school property, buses and at school sponsored events and needed to be filed with the Department of Education. The State Board of Education has authority to review all policies that have been developed by individual school districts in order to recommend improvements as needed.

The purpose behind these new mandatory school policies was to prevent any future harassment of students in schools. Upon creation of these policies, the school districts were directed to define the conduct of bullying. All actions that fell under their definitions of bullying would face consequences that each district also had to define within their policy. Act 681 allowed for punishments to be based on the age or grade of the offender. These policies needed to be posted in designated school and bus locations, be given to employees, students, parents, volunteers or upon request.

This act placed responsibility on employees of a school district to notify school administrators if they witnessed or received information of an incident of bullying. Any reporting employee shall be protected from any possible liability stemming from the incident. Act 681 also adds school programs that may be provided by the school guidance and counseling services. These programs include group conflict resolution to help develop skills to resolve differences and conflict and create understanding and open discussions between groups.

In an attempt to strengthen these anti-bullying laws the Arkansas state legislature recently passed Act 907. This act removes the responsibility of the school districts to create an anti-bullying policy but provides that the state of Arkansas acknowledges every student’s right to receive a public education in an environment, “free from substantial intimidation, harassment, or harm or threat of harm by another student”. With the passing of this new legislation, the act of bullying is now defined, making void the distinctions between two separate school districts.

The prohibited act of bullying is defined by Act 907 as “intentional harassment, intimidation, humiliation, ridicule, defamation, or threat of incitement of violence by a student against another student or employee”. This may either be a written, verbal, electronic or physical act. The prohibited act must actually create either physical harm, interfere or disrupt education or create a hostile environment. This newest form of anti-bullying legislation for the state of Arkansas extends beyond the more limited Act 681. Act 907 now makes bullying via social networking and computers a prohibited act. Bullying now no longer needs to be strictly defined as a physical act. Additionally the authority is given to the state to prevent not only harms done to an individual student but also for disruptions done to educational instruction or to the learning environment within a school.