Muscogee County schools enact new bullying policy -, GA News Weather & Sports

Muscogee County schools enact new bullying policy

By Laura Ann Sills - bioemail

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Stories like that of 14-year-old Brandon Bitner, a Pennsylvania teenager who killed himself after leaving a note asking his family to fight bullying in his honor, tear at the nation's heartstrings.

But, sadly, after a few days the anti-bullying hype is gone and the communities not directly effected go back to normal.

Melvin Blackwell, Director of Student Services in Muscogee County, "We are on the outside looking in to the situation. Some of us have looked at it and said, 'oh they are just playing. It's ok, I didn't see any tears.' Later on when the child goes home, the child breaks down and doesn't even tell the parent because they don't want to seem weak or whatever."

Blackwell says not only has social media like Facebook changed the way kids bully, it has changed policy in the district. "Because there is an impact on children who get picked at or teased on Facebook on Sunday afternoon or at Hollywood Connection Saturday night. Those things can manifest themselves in the bathroom, in the hallway, in the classroom. And, they effect the learning environment."

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In the past when a child was threatened or picked on through Facebook or texting, that was not grounds for action in the schools. Now, the bullying policy includes what happens off campus.

"We do intend to put emphasis on bullying this year, not that we didn't do it in the past, that is not the case. It is that I am new to this position and one of the things I am concerned with is safety and security of these children."

When you think your child is being bullied, he says gather up all the information you can and set an appointment with the Principal as soon as possible. And, don't leave the meeting with the Principal until you feel some sort of peace about the situation.

He says the district will do a better job of adequate documentation this year. In the past there were incidents of misconduct or disrespect, but not classified as bullying.

"It wasn't handled or wasn't addressed, it was perhaps status quo. It's ok. But, it is no longer ok."

Blackwell says, that will not happen anymore.

While Blackwell admits there is the potential to overact, especially when parents are involved, that can not be an excuse to not take every case seriously.

He hopes the policy changes will keep students from being pushed to the extremes, like Brandon Bitner.

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