Lawmakers discuss bullying bill that allows victims to transfer schools

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ORLANDO, Fla. - State lawmakers are discussing a bill Wednesday that would allow parents to transfer their children to a new school, including a private school, if they're bullied. 

Many parents said they don’t take bullying lightly.

 “Kids can take their lives over it (bullying),” said parent Bridget Roads. “It causes a lot of emotions inside that can affect them for the rest of their lives.”

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State Rep. Byron Donalds of Naples introduced a bill to that covers not only bullying, but students who have been assaulted both physically and sexually.

"This bill is to address those very serious incidents that do occur where a child in a schools setting doesn't feel safe anymore," Donalds said.

Students who file an incident report will be contacted by the school district after 15 days. Parents will have the option of transferring to a different school in the district or they would receive a voucher to attend a private school. 

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 “If there are people who take advantage of the system, then that is very unfortunate, but that's quite similar to other public programs that we have in place to help people who are in real need but are unfortunately taken advantage of by other people," Donalds said.

“I think it is great. If you have the opportunity to move your kids to another school it’s great,” parent Yovani Welkis said. “It is devastating that we have to go through that as parents.”

Seminole County school officials said they couldn't comment on the bill, but they said students are transferred if they feel they are being bullied by another student.

"It is such a growing problem,” said parent Susan Worske"Honestly there are just too many kids in the school, (and) sometimes they don't catch it. Their hands are tied by laws and things too."

Some parents said they'd like to see the bill address the source of the problem: the bully.

“(They should) get them out of the classroom because they are just going to keep on doing it,” said parent Jessica Rosa.

If parents choose to send their children to a private school, they would have to pay a portion of the cost.  Students in grades 1 through 5 would be eligible for 88 percent of the full-time funding for a child in public school; grades 6 through 8 would receive 92 percent funding, and high school students would receive 96 percent funding.

A state house panel is expected to move the bill forward at Wednesday’s meeting.

If the bill passes, it would take effect during the 2018-2019 school year.

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