Rep. Randy Boyd, R-Mantachie Credit: Gil Ford Photography

The House Education Committee passed an anti-bullying bill Friday that gives victims the right to defend themselves.

House Bill 263, authored by Rep. Randy Boyd, R-Mantachie, gives local districts the authority to define policies on bullying, reporting of bullying, and punishment.

“A lot of this bill just actually protects the person that’s being bullied and allows them to retaliate if someone is consistently bulling them,” said Rep. John Moore, R-Brandon, the committee chairman.

The bill includes language that protects the victim from disciplinary measures if he or she uses “reasonable self defense” in response to bullying.

“Up until now there has been kind of a standard in Mississippi that if there was any retaliation that both were at fault,” Boyd said. “So this kind of changes that a little bit.”

Other bills passed out of committee Friday include:

  • House Bill 1224, authored by House Speaker Philip Gunn, would exempt school districts with A or B accountability ratings from specific duties. It would also require the Mississippi Board of Education to develop a grant program for these districts to use on “innovative educational programs.”
  • House Bill 872 would require the Mississippi Department of Education’s commission on school accreditation to authorize certified teacher units to districts with a reduced number of certified teachers.
  • House Bill 582 would provide certified teachers with an “education enhancement fund procurement card” to purchase classroom supplies.
  • House Bill 581 would repeal a provision in the state code which requires the state board to establish a program for at-risk schools.
  • House Bill 565 would clarify attendance for students participating in authorized extracurricular activities.
  • House Bill 537, authored by Rep. Robert Foster (R- DeSoto), allows college teachers who begin teaching at public K-12 schools to carry their years of experience with them to the public school system.

HB 582, 581, 565 and 872 were authored by Moore.

All bills need to pass out of committee by Jan. 31 to have the possibility of making it to the House floor for a possible vote.

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Kayleigh Skinner joined the Mississippi Today team in January 2017 as an education and legislative reporter and advanced to a senior staff member in her four years with the company. Before joining Mississippi Today, Kayleigh worked at The Hechinger Report, Chalkbeat Tennessee, and The Commercial Appeal. She has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, and BBC Newsday Radio to discuss her reporting.