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Are schools doing enough to discourage bullying?

Staff Report • Feb 5, 2013 at 8:44 AM

As we reported last week, the Carter County School System has implemented a new program that looks to put an end to bullying. Carter County Board of Education member Rusty Barnett initiated the anti-bullying program that will be presented to each school in the system.

A few years ago, the Washington County School System established its EPIC (Encourage, Protect, Invest, Connect) program to discourage bullying, harassment and intimidation on campus. EPIC relies on the entire community — including students, teachers and parents — to address bullying. County officials say the program has been successful in calling attention to the problem.

Over the years, we here at the Press periodically heard from parents who believed school officials were not taking bullying seriously enough. That has changed.

Tennessee law now requires school systems to implement a policy defining bullying and outlining the punishment for students who intimidate their classmates.

And that intimidation is no longer limited to a bully taking a student’s lunch money at recess. Social media, smartphones and the Internet have provided new forums for bullies to operate. School officials, however, say they are limited in what they can do to stop cyberbullying.

Still, some critics of stiffer anti-bullying policies argue that school officials are overreacting to what they believe may be — in most cases — a minor problem. In an opinion column that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on April 2, 2010, Nick Gillespie wrote that schoolchildren today are actually safer and better-behaved than they were decades ago.

“Is America really in the midst of a ‘bullying crisis,’ as so many now claim? I don’t see it,” said Gillespie, who is editor in chief of Reason.com. “I also suspect that our fears about the ubiquity of bullying are just the latest in a long line of well-intentioned yet hyperbolic alarms about how awful it is to be a kid today.

“I have no interest in defending the bullies who dominate sandboxes, extort lunch money and use Twitter to taunt their classmates. But there is no growing crisis. Childhood and adolescence in America have never been less brutal.”

Tell us what you think. Are Tennessee schools doing enough to discourage bullying, or are school officials making too much of the problem?

Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification.

We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.

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