Sandoval signs key K-12 initiative targeting bullying

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has signed one of his key education initiatives into law that aims to stem the tide of school bullying.

The Republican governor, flanked by lawmakers and parents of bullied children, approved SB504 on Wednesday while surrounded by students at Carson Middle School.

Sandoval, who proposed numerous K-12 education initiatives as part of his $7.3 billion two-year budget, said that the bill's passage was one of his "proudest moments" as governor.

"No student should be in pain," he said. "Every student should have the opportunity to thrive and succeed."

The bill revises the definition of bullying and creates a new anti-bullying office within the Nevada Department of Education. It would also strengthen reporting requirements for bullying incidents, and create a 24-hour hotline and a website for submitting complaints.

State Superintendent Dale Erquiaga, who said he faced bullying growing up in rural Fallon, said the new requirements would help keep children safe online on social media platforms.

"If I think of what bullying was like for me and what it's like to you, it's probably different," he said to a crowd of middle school students.

Sandoval also called for $36 million to hire a social worker for every 250 Nevada students, but lawmakers approved less than half of that during a Saturday budget hearing amid fears that schools wouldn't be able to hire so many new employees in a short timeframe.

Sandoval said lawmakers were thoughtful in making the cut and that the state didn't have a "reservoir of social workers" to hire immediately. He said current funding would still make a difference in many schools, and that the Legislature could revisit the issue in the future.

"I think as time moves on, the model will prove itself and if we need more coming into the next session I'll be here and asking for it," he said.

The measure takes effect on July 1.

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