Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

TOP STORY >>Parents upset over harassment

Special to The Leader

The Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD) may not be abiding by state law requiring programs to prevent fighting, in spite of a recent spate of violence in Jacksonville which left police having to work security on school grounds.

Police arrested four Jacksonville High School students involved in two separate fights and provided security at North Pulaski High School after a student posted death threats on the Internet last month. On April 16, police took a report from the father of a Jacksonville Girls’ Middle School student, who says another student has repeatedly harassed her, but the school has failed to take action on her behalf.

“The girls are continuing to threaten her,” said Peggy Smiley, the grandmother of the girl who reported being bullied. Despite filing a police report, Smiley said the school has still not disciplined the girl who, she says, attacked her granddaughter three times since January.

“If they are not getting a response from the school, then go to the superintendent. If they are not getting anything there, then the Department of Education will investigate,” Julie Thompson, Department of Education spokesperson, said.

Smiley said she contacted PCSSD about what she says is the school’s failure to protect her granddaughter and did not receive a call back.

She plans to report the repeated bullying to the state Department of Education. Jacksonville Girls’ Middle School Principal Kim Forrest, the Pulaski County Special School District and the school board did not return calls for this article.

Bullying is believed to be the main cause of school violence, according to the education department. State law requires all local school boards to adopt policies to prevent pupil harassment and bullying. Bullying is prohibited on school property, at school activities, on buses and at bus stops. Student services must also include programs to prevent bullying.

School districts are also required to have a procedure to discipline students who engage in bullying and harassment, and the punishment for such behavior must be posted in every classroom, cafeteria, restroom, gymnasium, auditorium and school bus in the district as well be provided to parents, students, school volunteers and employees.

The Pulaski County Special School District’s harassment policy states that any report of such behavior should first prompt a conference with the child’s parents. If the incident is repeated, the student should be suspended for two to four days and will be recommended for expulsion if the harassment continues, according to PCSSD policy.

Despite department of education programming for school districts to make sure they comply with state law meant to prevent school violence, Jacksonville Elementary School is the only PCSSD school to receive Arkansas After-School Enrichment Pro-gram funds, which were created to provide prevention programs to target students in middle school, junior high school and high school who demonstrate anti-social behavior, according to Thompson.

J.B. Robertson, the supervisor of school counselors at the Department of Education, who also conducts anti-bullying workshops at schools across the state, said, “School counselors have different kinds of programs regarding getting along with kids that a lot of P.E. teachers also address.”

He said these programs are done consistently at the elementary level, but “at secondary level it stops, which is unfortunate.”
“Pick up any catalogue sent to schools and they are supposed to have these kinds of programs in place,” he said. “Some school districts that have not taken advantage of what is available is the problem,” Robertson said.