Cabello anti-bullying hotline bill clears House committee

Legislation to give youth a safe resource to report incidents of bullying or hazing in school was approved today by the State Government Administration Committee, clearing the path for final passage by the House of Representatives in the coming days. The legislation was introduced and sponsored by State Representative John M. Cabello, R-Machesney Park.

House Bill 2786 would permit school-aged children under the age of 18 to use the statewide toll-free child abuse hotline to report incidents of bullying or hazing at their school. The bill requires the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) to provide callers with information on how to handle such a situation and to report the incident to the superintendent of the school district or, in the case of a private school, the administrator of the school. Children who report such an incident will remain anonymous.

DCFS would further be required to inform all school districts and non-public schools in Illinois that the hotline may be used by children under the age of 18 to report bullying and hazing incidents, and post information on how a child can report an alleged incident of bullying or hazing via the hotline on a prominent place on the Department’s website.

“Bullying is an all-too real, too often occurrence in schools today,” Representative Cabello said. “Students deserve as much protection and support we can provide them. Allowing kids to utilize the state’s existing hotline to include reports of bullying or hazing in school is one common-sense way we can make a difference.”

DCFS maintains a single, statewide, toll-free telephone number which anybody may use to report suspected child abuse or neglect on any day at any time.

State law defines “bullying” as any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or electronically, directed toward a student or students that places the student or students in reasonable fear of harm, causing a detrimental effect on the student’s physical or mental health, substantially interfering with the student’s academic performance, or substantially interfering with the student’s ability to benefit from activities offered by the school.

“Hazing” is defined as knowingly requiring performance of any act by a person for purposes of induction into any group, organization, or society, if that act results in bodily harm or is not sanctioned or authorized by an educational institution.

Representative Cabello serves the 68th District, which includes portions of Rockford, Loves Park, Machesney Park and Cherry Valley.