Anti-bullying policies being passed by Shawnee Mission and other Kanas school districts have deep roots in the unhappy experience of a former Shawnee Mission student, the relentless efforts of his mother in the 2013 legislature and the help of State Representative Barbara Bollier.
Lisa Wendelburg of Shawnee was the driving force behind the passage of Loren’s Law, named for her now 15-year-old son, who she says was bullied by his teacher when he was a 10-year-old fifth grader.
Wendelburg discovered during that episode that state law in Kansas only prohibited bullying of a student by another student, not by a teacher.
Last summer, Wendelburg began her effort to get the law amended to prohibit teacher bullying and sent out a communication to Kansas lawmakers. Bollier, Wendelburg says, responded and spearheaded the help needed to get a bill started.
“She felt strongly that something needed to be changed,” Wendelburg said of Bollier. “She saw a need and embraced it. She is a can-do person (who is) just incredible.” Bollier, she says, helped her understand how to get a bill introduced and helped draft the bill. “We were basically citizens,” Wendelburg said, trying to negotiate the legislature.
For her part, in a wrap-up interview about the 2013 legislature, Bollier called helping Wendelburg one of the most gratifying points of the session because a citizen was able to negotiate the system.
Shawnee Mission School Board President Deb Zila during Monday’s board meeting said the long set of new anti-bullying policies that districts need to update were prepared by the Kansas School Board Association. After the meeting she said that the new state law, which grew from the Shawnee Mission incident, precipitated the changes, including a prohibition against bullying by district employees.
Loren’s Law, House Bill 2222, moved through the House education committee with no real opposition. It was amended to include a prohibition against parent bullying as well. It was then folded into another bill, HB 2261, that passed and was signed by Governor Sam Brownback on June 28.
Standing by the governor’s side during the signing was Loren Wendelburg.
The University of Kansas also is starting a research project to create anti-bullying policies for schools.