Anti-bullying bill presented to Collier County School Board
The bullied AND the bullies need help.
The death of a teen as a result of bullying has lead to a new bullying policy for the Collier County School District and other school districts across the state.
The policy, which the School Board will vote to approve in November, is the district’s response to the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act, which passed the Legislature in April.
The bill, which was presented to School Board members Thursday, is named after a 15-year-old Cape Coral boy who committed suicide in June 2005 after being bullied at school and on the Internet.
The law requires all Florida school districts to develop a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment of any student or employee of a kindergarten through 12th-grade educational institution.
Harassment is prohibited during any education program or activity conducted by a public educational institution; during any school-related or school-sponsored program or activity or on a school bus; or through the use of data or computer software that is accessed through a computer, computer system or computer network of an educational institution, according to the legislation.
The bill defines bullying as inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students and may involve teasing, threats, stalking, sexual or racial harassment and public humiliation.
The law requires that each school district, by Dec. 1, adopt a policy prohibiting bullying or harassment. If districts do not adopt a policy, safe school funds distributed by the state in fiscal 2009-10 year could be in jeopardy.
Dee Whinnery, executive director for student services, said the policy does not replace the district’s current zero-tolerance policy, which makes it impermissible for any employee and/or student to discriminate against or harass another employee or student for any reason.
“This just adds another layer on top of it,” she said.
The 12-page policy includes provisions that address bullying, harassment and cyberstalking. Whinnery said the district involved students, parents staff, administrators and representatives from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office while forming the policy. Students participated at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
She said students like that the new policy provides both the victim and the bully with support services and requires that the victim and the bully be interviewed separately. The policy also allows people to report misconduct anonymously, and there are consequences for a false report, she said.
School Board member Kathleen Curatolo asked if the district collected data on the number of incidents and the type of bullying going on in Collier County schools so it could best address what programs to implement.
Whinnery said the Collier County School District has several programs that address these issues, adding that no two schools fit the same mold when it comes to their issues with bullying.