County schools get new anti-harassment policy

Published 11:30 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Covington County School Board instituted an anti-harassment policy Tuesday that included protection for students who might be suffering from being bullied or cyber-bullied.

“Legislation was passed last year mandating that schools adopt this policy,” said Superintendent Terry Holley. “We had a good handle on this type of behavior issues in our code of conduct, but this new policy covers a variety of points.”

Among those include any continuous pattern of intentional behavior that takes place on school property, a school bus or at any school-related function. It also includes written, electronic, verbal or physical acts that are reasonably perceived to cause a student reasonable fear of harm to their person or damage to their property; interfering with the student’s educational performance or creating a hostile environment in the school or on school property.

“The great thing about this policy is that includes bullying, cyber-bullying and things of that nature. It also includes that we have to report suicide attempts by students as well.”

Cyber-bullying is the sending or posting of harmful or cruel text or images using the Internet or other digital communication devices such as e-mail, instant messaging (IM-ing) or text messages or digital images sent on mobile phones, social networking sites, Web pages, blogs, virtual worlds and/or chat rooms or discussion groups.

Statistics show that 1 in 4 teens have experienced online harassment and that girls are twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators, usually through e-mail or social networking sites.

To help report such instances, the new policy also includes a report form for administrative use, Holley said.

Complaints must be signed by the student alleging the violation or by their parents or legal guardian and delivered to the principal’s office. Upon its receipt, the principal or their designee will determine if the complaint alleges a serious violation of the policy.

If so, an investigation will be launched. If cause is found, appropriate disciplinary actions will be imposed on offenders.

In other business, the board:

• hired Jacqueline Williams Dubose as an emergency hire at Pleasant Home School elementary school teacher, effective immediately.

• adopted the LEA parental involvement plan/policy and the honors program policy.

• approved a 20 percent non-profit at-risk partnership with the county’s Children’s Policy Council for the Student Activities for Excellence (SAFE) program in the amount of $18,012.

• held its second budget hearing and adopted the 2011 fiscal year budget.

• voted to seek bids on three new school buses and to utilize federal transportation funds to cover the cost.