By Lacy Hilliard
On September 23, the Concerned Citizens Against Bullying group held their first meeting in Johnson County. The partnership was formed by parents that have expressed increasing concerns about how Johnson County Schools work to resolve reported bullying incidents.
The gathering was predominantly organized by Christina Dugger who stated, I am willing to do whatever I can to put a stop to bullying in our schools. Dugger distributed fliers throughout the community in an effort to raise awareness about the meeting. Dugger also hoped to hang the flier up at Johnson County High School in order to make students aware of the meeting but she was allegedly denied that right.
The meeting was attended both by parents and students as well as by Attorney Amy Williams, who was there to inform parents of their legal rights in terms of dealing with bullying issues. The school has a federal responsibility to respond to reports of bullying immediately, impartially and appropriately, said Williams. Williams went on to say, There have been reports of teachers saying I know those kids and they wouldnt do that when an incident is reported and frankly that is against federal law. Williams had previously invited parents to speak with her privately if they did not want to attend the public meeting alleging that some of the families fear retribution for speaking out about bullying. A total of 27 people (who represent 27 different families within the community) came to speak with Williams privately to discuss their concerns about bullying.
There are several anti-discrimination laws encompassed in the civil rights act that detail what is and is not acceptable. The Civil Rights Act states that discrimination based on sex, race, religion, or sexual orientation is against federal law. Moreover, the federal law also states that just one instance of harassment is enough to classify the behavior as bullying and when reported, the school is required to take immediate action in the form of an investigation that should result in a written report. Every parent at the meeting shared instances where the school allegedly mishandled reports of bullying.
Both Dugger and Williams repeatedly stated that the purpose of this meeting is to begin to work toward a resolution, hopefully with the help of school staff and administrators, said Dugger who stated that she personally invited several school administrators to the meeting. None were in attendance. Williams stated, A lawsuit is not what we want. Lawsuits take a long time and in the meantime, kids will suffer. What we want is to meet with educators and administrators and to come to a resolution. The school system must be held accountable for what they are responsible for under federal law. Dugger echoed Williams statement saying, We dont want to take this to court. We want to work together with the school to solve this problem. Williams went on to state that if in the event that all resources are exhausted and the school district still fails to comply with federal law that she is prepared to file suit.
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By Lacy Hilliard