By Preston Sparks
AUGUSTA, Georgia — Legislation enacted a decade ago banning bullying in schools has gone a long way to protect students, Richmond County school officials say.
“We have found that the attention to the problem of bullying that occurred with the passage of the legislation has helped to reduce incidences of bullying and to encourage agencies to provide support to teachers and schools,” said Dr. Carol Rountree, the county’s director of student services. “We feel that it is not the punishment, but the opportunity to address underlying causes of aggressive anti-social behavior that has made the difference.”
The state effort, begun in July 1999, requires local boards of education to adopt anti-bullying policies for sixth through 12th grades. The act — implemented into the Richmond County Student Code of Conduct — called for students who have bullied someone three times in a school year to be assigned to an alternative school. The act also required that information about the law and penalties be posted at middle and high schools and given to parents and students.
In Richmond County, principals have the discretion of suspending a student on the third offense.
Nationally, an extreme case involving bullying occurred in June when a 15-year-old Chicago student hanged himself after what was said to be repeated bullying in and out of school.
In Richmond County, bullying cases have made their way to tribunal only two times this school year, both resulting in a guilty finding, said school system spokesman Louis Svehla. For the 2008-09 school year, 23 bullying violations went to tribunal, but many also involved other rule violations. Of the cases, 17 cases resulted in a guilty finding, four students were deemed not guilty and two were sent back to the school for discipline.
School system records show one of this year’s tribunal cases involved an incident at Morgan Road Middle School that occurred around the start of September. A male student, who had previously tried to flush a student’s head in a urinal, walked up behind that student in the cafeteria with his fists clenched.
“A pattern of bullying was established,” records state. The student was suspended for the rest of the school year, with the opportunity to attend the Tubman Education Center Alternative Program in lieu of suspension.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, studies show 15 percent to 25 percent of American students are bullied several times or more in a single semester.
The department devotes a Web site to helping parents, teachers and students deal with bullying: stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov. Full story.
Filed under: Anti-bullying, Bullying, School Anti-Bullying Policies | Tagged: Anti-bullying, Bullying, Carol Rountree, Louis Svehla, Morgan Road Middle School, Richmond County, Richmond County Student Code of Conduct, School Anti-Bullying Policies, School Safety, Tubman Education Center Alternative Program |