Georgia legislation targets school bullying - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Georgia legislation targets school bullying

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –State lawmakers want to protect kids by cracking down on bullying. Tuesday, the Georgia House passed a bill that would require principals to report bullying to police.

The Georgia law was prompted by the suicide of an 11 year old Dekalb County student, whose family said he killed himself after merciless teasing at school. Lawmakers would make it a crime for school

principals not to report bullying to law enforcement. But some child experts say the teens need to learn to deal with the issue themselves.

Tracey Dent says she feels like she is spinning her wheels with Dougherty County School officials, after reporting her 14 year old son was bullied at Dougherty Middle School.

Dent said "Come home with bruising all over his legs. Bruises on his arms, his stomach. At first he was kinda scared to tell us about what was going on, cause he was afraid of some of the students at school."

Several teens have committed suicide because of bullying, including 15 year old Phoebe Prince. Authorities charged 9 students at her school in Massachusetts Monday. The Georgia bill would require school districts to have a plan to transfer bullies to another school. And it would be a crime for principals to knowingly not report bullying to law enforcement.

But Pediatrician Dr. Bruce Smith said kids need to learn to deal with bullies, starting at a young age, so they are prepared to deal with tough teenage years, when suicides are a danger.

Dr. Smith said "Send them off to school to fight their own battles if at all possible. But if gangs, drugs, or weapons are involved, that's when officials need to get involved."

Dent says she doesn't think school officials care enough about bullying or its dangers, and hopes the proposed state law will force them to take action.

Dent said "It breaks my heart because these families are losing their children. You know it could have been my son, and it shouldn't come down to it. It just shouldn't."

Dent says she will not give up her efforts to force school officials to protect her son and others at the Middle school.

Under the proposed state measure, school districts by August would have to create a system for dealing with bullies, and the state department of education would be required to enforce it.

We talked to several Doctors and child experts, and they all said that the best way to deal with bullying is to teach your child self respect and the golden rule, treat others like you would like to be treated yourself.

Opponents of this measure argue that overzealous enforcement of the bill could unnecessarily punish some students.

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