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Florida bill to give bullied students scholarships moves forward

Bullying is a heartbreaking and pervasive problem in schools across the country, and Florida schools are no exception. Across the state, students in kindergarten all the way to high school are injured, threatened and harassed by bullies.

For some, the bullying causes major problems for the child. They can be physically hurt; their schoolwork can suffer; they can experience serious depression and anxiety. In these situations, students may qualify for a scholarship to attend a private school if a bill recently approved by the Senate Education Committee passes.

What is the "Hope Scholarship" program?

This program would offer bullied students at public schools the opportunity to attend a private school on a scholarship. Supporters say that it gives victims the chance to get out of a bad situation before it becomes dire. It would also be available to victims of harassment, sexual assault and kidnapping.

What do critics say?

Critics of the program argue that the measure will not address the larger problem of bullying, as it does not do anything to stop the bully. It just removes one victim. This wouldn’t stop bullying, they argue; it would just make other students vulnerable to victimization.

Critics also take issue with the fact that the scholarships will take nearly $8 million in tax revenue from the state budget.

What can I do to protect my child now?

Whether you support this measure or not, you should understand what you can do now to protect children from bullying and harassment in school.

In many cases, families struggle with making the school understand and appreciate the seriousness of their situation. There can also be problems with enforcing effective penalties. Under these circumstances, parents can feel as powerless as their child feels.

However, parents are not powerless. They can work with an attorney to hold a bully, his or her parents, as well as the school liable for damage done to a child. Legal measures may not be necessary in all situations, but when your child's safety and well-being is threatened, they can help protect your child and hold the appropriate parties accountable.

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