School Bullying: How schools are aligning policies with state law

SEMINARY, MS (WDAM) - Bullying is defined by law in the state of Mississippi, although there are several concerns as to where the line is drawn between teasing and bullying.

"Bullying is something that is long-term, ongoing with a student," said Seminary Middle School counselor Sabrina Pippen." It's something that is happening, reoccurring, over and over."

Mississippi defines bullying as "any pattern of gestures or written, electronic or verbal communications… any physical act of threatening communication.. That takes place on school property, at a school sponsored function, or on a school bus."

"No matter how small the incident," said Seminary Middle School principal Jon Chancellor, "we always check into those."

Schools in the Seminary School District join the other public schools in Mississippi with a policy tailored to their schools to prevent and respond to school bullying.

"One of our catch slogans in 'Investigate, Document, Archive,'" said Chancellor. "That's in our bullying and harassment policy."

This policy aligns with Mississippi state law against bullying and harassment, which was passed in 2010. The law states that school districts must "recognize the fundamental right of every student to take reasonable actions.. To defend himself or herself from an attack." The law also requires schools to document instances of bullying or harassment.

"With most issues, including bullying in our schools, proactive measures are a lot better than reactive measures," said Chancellor.

Seminary High School counselor Bettie Collins says that when issues of bullying arise, all students involved are brought in with school officials "to talk to each other" to figure out what the next steps in resolving the problem should be.

"We make a record of what they've said, what's going on, and hopefully nothing else will happen," said Collins. "If it does, they know the consequences."

The awareness among Seminary's schools of bullying is not limited to one week of programs. Things like their partnership with Families First remind students and staff that these types of incidents can happen at any time.

"All throughout the year, we talk about and teachers talk about bullying with students in the classroom," said Pippen. "It's just something that's prevalent all year long."

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