Associated Press

CARSON CITY — A bill backed by Gov. Brian Sandoval that would implement a broad anti-bullying initiative throughout Nevada’s school system passed the Senate in an 18-1 vote on Monday.

SB504, which was supported by families whose children took their own lives or attempted suicide after persistent bullying, would create an Office for a Safe and Respectful Learning Environment 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.

“Hopefully, this bill will give us the tools that we need to get help not just for the victim, but for the person who’s the perpetrator,” said Sen. Joe Hardy, a Republican. “This is one of those cases where both people will need help.”

The lone opponent was Republican Sen. Don Gustavson, who said he was appalled by testimony about schools’ slow response to bullying but took issue with the bill itself.

“The definition of bullying is way too broad,” he said in a floor speech. “We do have a problem, but we must not go overboard in the passing of the laws that we make in dealing with this bullying problem.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly.

Sandoval’s budget proposes allocating $36 million over the next two years to hire one school social worker for every 250 students and execute the goals of the anti-bullying office. That financial request has yet to garner final legislative approval.

The anti-bullying program is one of several multimillion-dollar education initiatives Sandoval has proposed, along with efforts to support English language learners, students in poverty and children struggling to read.

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