Knox County School Board revamps bullying policy

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KNOXVILLE – Bullying is tough on victims. The new anti-bullying policies, spurred into existence by the passage of a statewide anti-bullying law that requires school boards to address the issue, do not specifically address the concerns of GLBT students. In Knox County , those concerns can be laid to rest with the new policy laid in place by the Knox County School Board.

Inspired by an Oak Ridge student who had suffered at the hands of bullies for three years, the new state law seeks to assure that our public school students have a learning environment that promotes academic and social development and is as free as possible from violence – whether verbal or physical.

As part of an effort to be proactive in implementing sound policy in accordance with the new law, the Knox County School Board has revamped their anti-bullying policy. The quiet revolution in thinking as reflected by that policy is music to the ears of former students who have been the target of derisive comments or worse in their schools in the past.

The new policy offers hope to GLBT students by specifically prohibiting acts intended to harass or intimidate them.

"Harassment, intimidation or bullying" means any gesture, written, verbal, physical or psychological act that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function or on a school bus and that: 1) is motivated by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability; or 2) by any other distinguishing characteristic. The bullying must be an act or verbiage that would cause a “reasonable person” to fear harm or that would cause “disruption” in the learning process.

Knox County School Board member, Indya Kincannon, whose stance on bullying issues was made clear during her successful campaign in the last election, has followed through on her promise to be inclusive in matters that effect GLBT youth.

“I think this policy is a huge victory for kids and hopefully will reduce bullying in all its vicious forms,” Kincannon said.

The final reading affirming the policy occurred on June 1. The vote for the changes was unanimous.