By Curt Yeomans
A Lovejoy mother wants to take a stand against bullying, saying it nearly derailed her daughter's educational career, over a two-year period.
Tami Cole said her sixth-grade daughter had been bullied by a classmate since the fourth grade, and she finally had to transfer her child to another middle school last month, just so her daughter could get away from the alleged bully.
Now, she is calling on the school system to take steps to improve how cases of bullying are handled, including anonymous reporting drop boxes, a written anti-bullying policy, and the formation of a parent advocacy group.
"All I want to do is be an advocate, so other children will not have to go through what my daughter went through," Cole said.
Cole said the bullying of her daughter goes back two years, to when she was a fourth-grader at Kemp Elementary School. While the student Cole claims bullied her daughter allegedly did, periodically, pull her child's hair, the mother said most of the alleged harassment consisted of verbal attacks. "She would go up to my daughter and say, 'I hate you, I don't like the way you talk,'" said Cole.
The bullying continued when both students moved to the school system's Elite Scholars Academy Charter School this past fall for the sixth-grade, according to Cole, who said she had trouble getting officials at the school to keep her daughter's bully away from her.
Elite Scholars Principal Shonda Shaw, and Assistant Principal Aaron Randall, have said an investigation determined that no bullying ever took place. They said they could not specify what they found did happen, however, because the matter involves private student records.
School System Spokesman Charles White said the school district does take reports of bullying seriously, and that it already has a telephone number, 1-800-SAY-STOP, students and parents can call to, anonymously, report incidents of bullying.
Cole said she did not know about the telephone number.
Even though there is no specific school board policy devoted solely to bullying, the school system does address the issue in its Student Handbook. The handbook is distributed to students at the beginning of the school year, and it includes a form that parents are expected to sign and send back to school with their children, after they have read the book.
The handbook's Student Code of Conduct shows that there are increasing punishments for repeated offenses of bullying, ranging from out-of-school suspension, to a tribunal hearing for the accused bully, and mandatory assignment to an alternative school for middle and high school students, after the third offense.
Officials with the school system's psychology department previously said they will roll out several, new, anti-bullying measures, including a one-stop information web site, over the course of this year.