A local woman who launched a crusade against the so-called “Ladue Senior List” at Horton Watkins High School has taken her fight to the Missouri Capitol.
Ruth Ahlemeier, a Ladue School District parent from Olivette, testified Wednesday in Jefferson City during a public hearing by the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee of the Missouri House of Representatives on HB 134.
The bill is sponsored by State Representative Sue Allen, R-Town and Country, and would change the laws regarding bullying in schools and establish specific components that a district must include in its anti-bullying policy, according to information on Missouri House of Representatives website.
This is the third year Allen has introduced such a bill.
In Ahlemeier’s words, it would mean that all school districts would be required to have an anti-bullying policy and to make sure it is publicly communicated to the student body.
“It is similar to the way that every work place needs to have a safety policy,” she said, referring to federal regulations that require postings about safety, wage and discrimination laws.
She said the law is necessary because in her experience even in cases when districts do have anti-bullying policies, such as Ladue, they aren’t rigorously enforced. The idea is to help prevent bullies from creating the equivalent of a “hostile work environment” for students while letting them know they have recourse against it.
Reached by phone after the hearing, Allen said Ahlemeier was one of about 10 citizens who spoke at the hearing, all who made statements in favor of the legislation.
She is hopeful that this year, representatives will move past political differences over whether or not the bill should include specific references to protected categories, such as sexual orientation or gender.
"I am hoping that people care enough about the well being of their students and schools to look at all the kids and not mess it up to and not get anything done this year," she said.
Last fall, Ahlemeier filed a complaint with the Kansas City Office for Civil Rights after she felt the high school administration failed to do enough to combat and punish those responsible for the “Senior List,” a crude tradition which, over the years, has targeted students' perceived sexual and personal habits for ridicule.
For its part, the Ladue School District has in the past said that it has taken steps to prevent the circulation of the Senior List and has a number of anti-bullying programs in place.
School officials also confirmed in January that federal civil rights investigators have has since started a probe into bullying problems at the school and said they will cooperate fully.
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