INDIANAPOLIS— State lawmakers approved House Bill 1315 in a special session Monday, which, if signed by the governor will put Muncie Community Schools under the control of Ball State University.
The Indiana Coalition for Public Education and other organizations have been critical of the move because Muncie Community Schools would not have to follow the state’s bullying law.
“ICPE is scratching our collective heads as to why Ball State will be allowed to ignore so many laws that all other public schools, including charter schools, must follow, particularly as they relate to protecting students,” said Joel Hand, general counsel for the Indiana Coalition for Public Education. “We find it unconscionable that Muncie Community Schools will no longer have to have a bullying prevention policy or provide staff with bully prevention training or to provide instruction about child abuse and child sexual abuse.”
On June 4, 2013, then-Governor Mike Pence signed the anti-bullying bill into law amid cheers from child advocates – who said the law was necessary to track bullying cases and to prevent incidents.
By July of every year, Indiana schools are required by law to report bullying incidents to the Indiana Department of Education including physical, verbal, social and electronic bullying.
The Indiana Department of Education uses the schools’ bullying numbers to track what’s happening and to look for red flags.
The state also shares the bullying data with the legislative council and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.
Prompted by a Call 6 investigation, the governor also recently signed an update to the bullying law that calls for more accountability in how schools report bullying.
Call 6 Investigates has also learned that Muncie will not have to follow other laws including seclusion and restraint, which requires schools to report any time they use a seclusion room or physically restrain a student.
“The safety and well-being of our children should be of the utmost concern but our General Assembly has now ignored them in favor of trying to punish those in Muncie and Gary who failed to prevent their respective financial dilemmas,” said Hand.
Mindi Goodpaster, director of public policy with the Marion County Commission on Youth and vocal advocate for anti-bullying efforts, said it’s not clear why Muncie wouldn't have to follow the laws.
“I don’t have a concrete answer as to why it was taken out but my sense is that they are trying to streamline operations in Muncie," said Goodpaster.
It's not immediately clear whether the bullying and seclusion/restraint requirements were intentionally or unintentionally left out of the bill.
Call 6 Investigates also reached out to Ball State University for answers.
"Simply because the statute doesn't require compliance with certain regulatory obligations doesn't mean we won't," said Ball State University President Geoffrey Mearns. "We simply asked for the flexibility to design an innovative program."
According to the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, Muncie will also not have to disclose the details of its superintendent contracts.
It requires superintendent contracts to include the actual compensation dollar amounts for salaries, benefits and perks.
House Bill 1315 awaits the signature of the governor.
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