Topeka A bill requiring that schools institute anti-bullying programs has been finalized by the Legislature and awaits Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' signature before it can take effect.
"This will create a better atmosphere," state Rep. Pat Colloton, R-Leawood, a sponsor of the legislation, said Saturday.
During the legislative session, students urged passage of the measure, saying youngsters today are confronted with much worse bullying practices than in the past, including cyber-bullying over the Internet.
Experts on the effects of bullying also said bullying sometimes leads the victim to lash out violently. They said school shootings are often the result of a student reacting to being bullied.
Colloton said anti-bullying programs that involve students makes them more sensitive to the feelings of others and gives bullying victims "resiliency skills."
A gay rights group praised the bill.
"This is a good first step toward ending the harassment faced today by far too many kids - both straight and gay," said Thomas Witt, chairman of the Kansas Equality Coalition.
Witt said a national survey in 2005 by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network found that three-fourths of students had heard derogatory remarks about sexual orientation.
In addition, the study found nearly two-thirds of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 17.6 percent had been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation.
The survey also found that a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that addressed sexual orientation was related to lower rates of harassment, he said.
Officials in Lawrence have said a bullying prevention program at Langston Hughes and Prairie Park schools has resulted in a 50 percent reduction in bullying.