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Fayette Board of Education to consider state bullying policy

The Fayette County Board of Education at its regular meeting on March 15 is expected to vote on a new bullying policy. The policy comes by way of a state law that has been reviewed by the Ga. Dept. of Education and sent to school systems across the state. The new policy will supplement the school system’s existing procedures on bullying and will add a new definition to the school system’s student Code of Conduct policy.

The Fayette school system has long had procedures on bullying in place. Discipline and Attendance Coordinator C.W. Campbell said this new action will result in the system having a specific policy on bullying. Campbell made an initial presentation of the policy at the school board’s March 1 work session. A vote on the policy is expected on March 15.

The policy defines bullying as “an act which occurs on school property, on school vehicles, at designated school bus stops, or at school-related functions or activities, or by use of data or software that is accessed through a computer, computer system, computer network or other electronic technology of a local school system.”

The state policy goes on to note that procedures and progressive discipline for bullying should be implemented. Fayette already has those in place.

The most notable change in the new state policy specifies the use of a school system’s network, Campbell said, adding that the language in the policy is pointed in the direction of addressing cyber-bullying. But Georgia does not have a cyber-bullying law, said Campbell.

Fayette schools have previously addressed the issues of bullying and cyber-bullying in forums intended for parents and the community. One of those, held in the spring last year, had consultant Dr. Michael Carpenter presenting a wealth of information pertaining to a wide range of issues included in bullying and cyber-bullying.

Breaking the cycle of bullying can be done, Carpenter insisted, and it can take various forms. Whether from a friend, classmate or a stranger, it takes someone exhibiting the courage to step in and begin to disarm the situation.

Specifically addressing cyber-bullying, Carpenter said it is being used through a variety of digital media. And the biggest change is in grades 6 and 7, he said. Some of the forms of cyber-bullying include “bash boards,” blogs, email, texting and instant messages. Some of the most pronounced differences in cyber-bullying is that it is anonymous and carries a 24/7 capability, said Carpenter.

Whatever its form, bullying leads to issues such as lower self-esteem, absenteeism, illness and thoughts of suicide, Carpenter said.

For all the information provided at the community meeting, Carpenter stressed to the few parents in attendance that 77 percent of of all children are bullied yet only 10 percent tell their parents.

“Why is this place not filled up today?” Carpenter asked rhetorically. ”I’m not surprised. The people who need to be here aren’t.”

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