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Utah Bill Would Offer Teachers Protections from Student, Parent Bullies

Utah State Representative Marie Poulson has a harrowing tale from her time as a junior high school teacher. Poulson said she had to chase down a student who brazenly stole her purse. After turning him in, she said she started to receive abusive phone calls from his parents, who blamed her for their son's subsequent legal troubles. The calls continued for the rest of the school year. Poulson said she had little recourse; she tried to get the student out of her class but her pleas went unanswered.

The Democrat from suburban Salt Lake City told her story as part of her testimony in support of a bill that would require school districts and charter schools to set up a grievance process for school employees who are being bullied by students or parents, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.

After receiving unanimous approval from both chambers of the Utah legislature, the bill—which united the often feuding Utah Education Association, the state teachers' union and an affiliate of the National Education Association, with state Republicans—now only awaits the governor's signature.

But just how pervasive is the problem? According to a 2012 neaToday article, one survey found that a quarter of school employees across the country complained of being bullied. But that survey didn't specify who was doing the bullying. It could have been other educators, thus not falling under the purview of the Utah bill. In a survey done by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), one of the largest teachers' unions in the United Kingdom, over half of teachers reported being bullied by parents just on social media.

"Over the three years the NASUWT has been running this survey the situation has deteriorated," Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT said in a statement. "There are still too many cases where no appropriate action is taken when abuse is reported to head teachers, the police or the social networks themselves."

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