"It's bullying that killed me," reads 14-year-old Angel Green's suicide note to her mother. "Please get justice."
In the wake of the Indiana 8th grader's shocking public suicide last month, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would require school districts to report bullying incidents in an annual performance report. The bill would also require teachers and other staff to be trained on bullying prevention measures, and would hold schools accountable for situations that get out of hand. This is a long overdue measure and it should not have taken another young person's suicide to be considered.
Angel Green's body was found hanging from a tree next to her bus stop, where she knew her bullies would see the lengths to which she had gone "to be saved from the pain" of their relentless torture. They called her a "slut" and a "whore," told her she was worthless, teased her for her appearance, and even tormented her upon learning that her father had been arrested for assaulting her.
Now, Angel's mother Danielle is pushing for legislation that she hopes will save other children in her daughter's situation.
The grieving mother took her story to the Indiana General Assembly last week, along with several mothers who made the trip in solidarity. One of them was Lana Swoape, whose 15-year-old committed suicide after being bullied.
"It's getting out of hand," said Swoape. "We're losing more kids every day."
Although both the Indiana House and Senate Committee on Education and Career Development have passed the bill, it still must face the full Senate before it can be signed into law. Also, the Indiana Family Institute (IFI), a conservative group, opposes the bill on the grounds that it impedes free speech.
"The bill mandates that school corporations address 'bullying' issues (under the new over broad and vague definition) anywhere they occur," said the IFI's website. "This could potentially include minor squabbles between students at a weekend sleepover."
But the bill would only target instances of bullying that threaten a student's safe school environment, and according to Mindi Goodpaster of the Marion County Commission, is completely constitutional.
Added former Marion County Prosecutor Scott Newman, "It was such a modest bill that identifies bullying problems and allows for prevention and training. That's it. But people decided to take that on, and they said their concerns are the First Amendment."
An amendment was adopted that would hopefully quiet some of these concerns, while still maintaining the bill's core tenets.
On the sidelines of the clerical drama, but at the forefront of the conversation, Danielle Green is refusing to stop fighting until her daughter's final wish is granted. The bullying her daughter endured for far too long was tragic and completely preventable. Her daughter's insistence that she try to improve the lives of other bullied children keeps her strong.
"My daughter's story is now heard," she said after the Senate Committee vote. "It gives my Angel wings."