Lee County approves anti-bullying procedure

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Lee County School Board is close to adopting a policy stating that it does not condone bullying or harassing behavior.
A new state law requires all of Mississippi’s 152 school districts adopt such a policy by December. Lee County’s board approved a first reading of its new policy at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
It must be approved again at the district’s Nov. 30 meeting before taking effect in January in the 6,800-student district.
Lee County’s policy will be similar to many that are being adopted across the state in that it uses language from a template provided by the Mississippi School Board Association, Superintendent Mike Scott said.
The Tupelo Public School District revised its bullying policy in July and incorporated some of the language from the School Board Associations’ sample policy.
In addition to officially condemning bullying and harassing behavior, Lee County’s policy encourages students and school employees to report bullying incidents that they witness.
“The most important thing is reporting the bullying,” Scott said. “Teachers and administrators can’t do anything if they don’t know about it.”
The policy protects those who report incidents of bullying from retaliation. It also recognizes the right of students to take “reasonable actions” as need to defend themselves from attack.
It defines “reasonable action” as promptly reporting the behavior to a school employee.
The policy also covers actions that take place off school property but which disrupt the educational environment.
School bullying has been a particular cause for concern across the nation as several students have committed suicide after being bullied during the past year.
The latest report came Monday when a 14-year-old Michigan girl hanged herself after being taunted for accusing an 18-year-old of having sex with her.
Responding to the large number of suicides and the complexities caused by cyberbullying, the Mississippi Legislature passed SB 2015, requiring districts to adapt a policy prohibiting and defining bullying and harassing behavior. It was signed by Gov. Haley Barbour in April.
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.