A comprehensive anti-bullying law that would apply to all schools in Cayman has been submitted for public comment. The comment period is open until 16 Sept.
The Cayman Islands Law Reform Commission announced the proposed legislation on Tuesday. In a statement, the commission said the move was in response to comments on an earlier paper it produced, ‘Bullying: Legislation, Policy or Both?’ The proposed law, it said, “is formulated to complement a national policy on bullying.”
The Ministry of Education is currently working on a draft of a national policy regarding bullying.
The proposed law would:
- Require every school to formulate an anti-bullying policy;
- Hold the school leader responsible for the implementation and oversight of the legislation and any policies made under the legislation to address bullying;
- Require school staff members to report instances of bullying they have witnessed, or been made aware of, to the school leader in a timely manner;
- Require all schools to submit a quarterly report on instances of bullying and how they were handled; and
- Allow for imposing fines on school leaders, staff members, parents and students who fail to adhere to the school’s anti-bullying policy.
The legislation covers physical bullying as well as threats that affect the well-being of a student, whether those threats are spoken, written or transmitted electronically.
The law specifically prohibits bullying behaviour – which it defines as repeated instances of harm or intimidation – that includes “negatively commenting about a person’s looks, clothes, body, sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, age, mental or physical disability, property, birth or other status”.
The law does not mention commenting on sexual orientation, a common target of bullying behaviour. Commission Director Jose Griffith said that, as in the Cayman Constitution, the phrase “other status” can include that.
Provisions in the law require school officials to notify parents of bullying instances and to provide specific support to those being bullied, as well as remedial and punitive measures for students found bullying others.
School administrators and staff can be fined $3,000 for failing to implement those provisions. Parents and students who do not abide by the law can be fined $1,000.
“While the bully must be held responsible for his or her actions,” Griffith wrote in an email, “we believe that an equal responsibility needs to be placed on the school and parents to ensure that adequate measures are put in place to prevent bullying in the first instance and to prevent a recurrence of bullying.”
“Penalties are designed to persuade all parties to take the issue seriously and indeed deter adverse behaviour,” he added.
Comments can be sent by 16 Sept. via email to [email protected] Written comments can be mailed or hand delivered to Director of the Cayman Islands Law Reform Commission.