Tampa: Parents now filing bullying reports online


By SHERRI ACKERMAN
The Tampa Tribune
TAMPA – The first complaint came at the end of the first day of school.

A boy at Randall Middle School in Lithia said he was struck on the head by another student as they rode the bus home. His mother reported the incident to Hillsborough County schools officials using the district’s new anonymous online system.

As of Friday, it was one of 45 reports received by the district under a new anonymous online reporting system designed to make it easier for victims of bullying to step forward.

Most complaints came from parents and most were unfounded, said Judith Rainone, the district’s director of administration.

Some of the complaints started with bullying allegations but escalated into complaints from parents about other parents. One involved charges of one teacher bullying another. At least three were bogus and logged by the same student.

Only a handful of incidents fit the state’s definition of bullying, said Rainone, who will present her findings during a bullying committee meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the district’s downtown Tampa headquarters.

On the district’s Web site (www.sdhc.k12.fl.us), a seven-page policy defines bullying as physical or mental abuse that is systematic and chronic. It can include teasing, social exclusion, threats, intimidation, cyberbullying, theft, harassment or public humiliation.

Bullies face suspension, expulsion or arrest depending on the circumstances.

State law requires school districts to train teachers and principals to spot signs of bullying and take action to stop it. The schools also must provide counseling to victims and bullies and follow up with their families.

Hillsborough County Public Schools has always had an avenue to report bullying, but administrators went a step further this fall with the online reporting system.

The new procedure came just months after four Walker Middle School students were arrested in the rape of a classmate at the boys’ locker room. The victim later told authorities he had been harassed for weeks by the same group of boys.

That case is still pending. Full story.

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