Anti-bullying efforts need to be more consistent and pervasive across the country, according to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

Casey, D-Pa., has reintroduced bipartisan legislation aimed at preventing bullying and harassment in schools.

"There are a lot of good efforts out there, but it's patchwork," said Casey, who introduced the Safe Schools Improvement Act with Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

The legislation would require any school receiving federal funding to adopt a code of conduct prohibiting bullying and report incidents to the state.

In Pennsylvania, bullying data is already recorded, and many, if not all, York County school districts have a bullying and harassment policy.

Casey
Casey

Pennsylvania data on bullying, down to the district level, can be found at www.safeschools.state.pa.us.

According to York County data, two out of every three bullies were male in the 2011-12 school year, with fighting and simple assault being the most frequent incidents, at about 20 percent of total bullying incidents for each category. Among about 65,300 York County

students, there were 2,441 incidents that school year.

Elsewhere: Casey said, though, that not all states have been thorough in reporting and preventing bullying.

"We shouldn't need a federal law to do this," he said.

And when bullying is pervasive, learning can't happen. Schools can't ask students to do well on tests and then not protect them from harassment.

"It's a basic betrayal," he said.

Cyber bullying is especially a problem, Casey said, as "it can be a real conduit for 24-hour bullying or harassment."

Schools wouldn't be asked to do a "cookie cutter" anti-bullying program, he said. But they do need to do something.

As a fifth-grade teacher years ago, Casey said he wasn't aware of bullying or trained in how to help prevent it. Now he's heard from a former student who recalled some of the terrible harassment she went through.

That shouldn't happen, Casey said.

"Maybe if I had been better prepared, more sensitive to it," he said.

The legislation will have to make its way through committees before it gets a chance to go up for a vote.

-- Reach Andrew Shaw at ashaw@yorkdispatch.com