TN adopts tougher standards on bullying - WSMV News 4

TN adopts tougher standards on bullying

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Jacob Rogers Jacob Rogers
Phillip Parker Phillip Parker

State leaders are taking a tough stance on bullying by increasing the punishments in hopes of making school bullies think twice.

The issue has gotten a lot of attention because of recent suicides of high schoolers who were bullied.

Jacob Rogers was constantly bullied over his sexual orientation at his Cheatham County school before he ended up taking his life. But his death has inspired a group of fellow Cheatham County students to stand up against bullying.

"You go to school to learn. You are there to get an education. Those kids that are there bullying aren't there to get an education. They are there to torment a child and put them down," said Jeremy Rogers, with the group Jacob's Angels.

State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, took a first crack at putting an end to cyberbullying last year. But the bill got national attention for the wrong reasons when its language about distressing images led to constitutionality questions.

Since that time, Jacob Rogers and Gordonsville teen Phillip Parker, both victims of bullying, committed suicide.

So this year's bill fixed the language and took the issue a step further.

Under the new law, schools will have to train teachers to deal with bullying and cyberbullying. They will also have to investigate any allegations that include threats of physical harm to a student. Finally, they will have to report all bullying cases to the Department of Education.

If a student is found guilty of cyberbullying, the punishment will include 30 hours of community service.

"Hopefully it's a smack on the hand to say, 'don't do that again.' And we're going to watch this and hopefully we can curb this," Ketron said.

Jeremy Rogers, no relation to Jacob Rogers, said he is happy that the state is taking a stance on bullying and hopes Cheatham County students will eventually be better off and safe in their schools.

"I'm glad that they are taking it to the state level and the state has stepped up, because once you start at the top, it usually trickles down and little communities will pick it up," Jeremy Rogers said.

Gov. Bill Haslam has already signed the bill into law. It is set to take effect on July 1.

The first bullying reports from schools must be submitted to the Department of Education by Aug. 1, 2013.

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