The issue of bullying took center stage Monday evening in Cheatham County, not by choice but by public pressure.
Prior to Monday, the Board of Education refused to discuss three ideas to beef up the district's anti-bullying policy.
It came following the suicide of a student who was bullied, many believe, because he was gay. But Monday's meeting won't be the end of the fight.
Jacob Rogers' suicide led to a tough debate about bullying and what schools should do to protect students.
"It's really hard," said Kaelynn Mooningham. "Times are changing, and this is something that can no longer be ignored."
After the death of her friend Jacob, Mooningham turned grief into action by pressuring the school board to change policy in Cheatham County by adding "sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression" to the schools' anti-bullying policy.
"I think if they don't, it's going to make them look really bad," Mooningham said.
Two other people submitted ideas - one for a monthly breakdown of bullying by school, the other for more training for staff.
"So many gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and transgender kids are the targets of bullies," said Chris Sanders, with the Tennessee Equality Project. "We think it's important to be that specific with the policy."
But when the board's agenda surfaced, none of the proposals appeared on the agenda.
"So they must have rejected them," Sanders said. "I'm extremely disappointed, because these three citizens followed the procedure laid out in the school board policy."
For the district's director, it's not an issue of topic but timing.
"You know, I think we've actually done everything we can do at this point," said Tim Webb, director of Cheatham County Schools. "Just to be arbitrary and have those things come in, you know, to meet some kind of deadline, doesn't mean that we have to take them up on a board agenda."
At Monday's meeting, the district's attorney said Monday night they're following all of the rules when it comes to preventing bullying.
Even though the bullying policy wasn't on the school board's agenda Monday night, several residents brought it up during the "public comments" period.
They want the school board to toughen the policy following the recent suicide of student Jacob Rogers, who his friends and family say was tormented because he was gay.
Sanders said that getting the public hearing is a small victory but doesn't go far enough.
"The attorney got up and assured the board you're doing just enough to get by. He said that all of the classes that we mentioned were covered in the policy. If that's the case, then why not put it in writing? Why not add those words? If the board is embracing this, let's put it in writing and make it clear that no one will be targeted or discriminated against based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression," said Sanders.
The policy is reviewed annually, so this issue may not be settled.
Among the proposals for the policy change include a call for the district to provide more training for staff and to keep record of bullying incidents and how they are handled.
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