INDIANAPOLIS - The Senate Committee on Education and Career Development has passed anti-bullying legislation aimed at holding schools accountable for bullying incidents.
House Bill 1423 requires school districts to track and report the nature of bullying incidents in an annual performance report.
It also requires school employees, volunteers and students to be trained each year on bullying prevention, and schools would have to share information on bullying investigation procedures with students and parents.
Numerous mothers came to the Statehouse Wednesday to testify in support of the bill, including Danielle Green of West Lafayette.
Angel Green, 14, hung herself in a tree on March 5 by her bus stop after repeated bullying.
"They called her whore, slut and countless names, and told her she was worthless," said Green. "She did this before the bus was going to be there so her bullies would see her."
Angel left a note for her mother with a message.
"P.S. It's bullying that killed me. Please get justice," read the suicide note.
Green told senators school districts need to do more to address the problem.
"I want the schools to have more training and I want the kids and everybody to have support and resources for how to handle it," said Green.
Lana Swoape also supports the idea.
Her daughter Tori committed suicide at age 15 after she was bullied at her school in Bloomington.
"It's getting out of hand," said Swoape. "We're losing more kids every day."
Conservative group the Indiana Family Institute has raised concerns to lawmakers, saying the bill could limit free speech and religious freedoms.
Other concerns are how schools would handle bullying that happens outside of school such as on Facebook or at a sleepover.
IFI Public Policy Director Ryan McCann agreed to an interview with RTV6, but then canceled at the last minute.
An amendment to the bill includes some exemptions to the extended definition of bullying.
Some of these include participating in a religious event, an activity involving the exercise of a student's rights under the First Amendment or an activity lead by a nonprofit, government entity that provides recreation, education or training.
"The bill does nothing to limit free speech," said Mindi Goodpaster of the Marion County Commission on Youth. "That is a protected right under the Constitution."
The bill already passed the House and now goes onto the full Senate for consideration.
It also extends the definition of bullying to include electronic messages made outside of school that make a student fear for his or her safety.