Students petition for better bullying prevention

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CHEATHAM COUNTY, Tenn. – Students and graduates in Cheatham County believe the school board there has not done enough to fight bullying since the suicide of Jacob Rogers.

The push comes following the December death of 18-year-old Jacob Rogers. Rogers took his own life after friends say he was bullied for being gay.

On Monday, March 6, concerned citizens took matters into their own hands by proposing a series of reforms during the public comment period of Monday night’s school board meeting.

Jacob’s friends said the teen had sought help from school staffers about being bullied but never got the help he needed.

"The counselors had just said, ‘Well, sit in here until class is over!’ Well, that caused him to not get the education that he deserved," said Jacob’s friend and classmate Kaelynn Mooningham.

Students went before the school board to have their voices heard and to provide proposals that might help future students.

The proposals would require school officials to provide monthly reports on bullying cases, to give out copies of the anti-bullying curriculum taught to teachers, require the district to outline gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation in its anti-bullying policies.

"It’ll show them, ‘OK, well — this person was bullied and this is how the school handled it," said Jeremy Rogers.

Cheatham County School Board Attorney, Larry Woods, said that while the proposal are good, the school’s current zero-tolerance policy complies with federal law.

"Anti-bullying is universal: white, black, minority, male, female, homosexual, heterosexual, bi-sexual, trans-gener; it makes absolutely no difference! This school district’s policy is there will not be any bullying," he said.

While the school may be following the rules, many in the audience Monday insisted that their compliance with rules does not equal compassion for students.

"The attorney got up and assured the board: ‘You’re doing just enough to get-by’," said Tennessee Equality Project leader Chris Sanders.

On Monday, March 15, Sumner County residents delivered three similar anti-bullying proposals to the Sumner County Board of Education for Consideration during its March meeting.