New Mississippi law gives bullying victims power to fight back - - The News for South Mississippi

New Mississippi law gives bullying victims power to fight back


By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – It starts with teasing and nasty rumors, and can lead to intimidation and violence.  Nationwide, as many as 25 percent of students are bullied, some to the point of being too scared to go to school.

"Bullying is a natural phenomenon.  It's part of human nature. However, it does have to be controlled," said Robert Laird, School Safety Director for the Mississippi Department of Education.

This week, 123 school resource and safety officers from across Mississippi are meeting at a Safe and Drug Free Schools Conference in Biloxi. One session trains them on how to enforce a new anti-bullying law that takes effect July first.

"It's much more strict. It mandates that all school districts will have a policy and procedure regarding prohibiting of bullying under all conditions," said Laird.

The law states that teachers and coaches are required to report any incidence of bullying to school leaders or campus officers.  It also puts the responsibility on principals to investigate each case and take appropriate disciplinary action.  The biggest change affects victims.  They now have the right to fight back against their attackers.

"If another kid comes up and assaults a child, and the child strikes back.  In the past, it was considered that if you're both fighting, you're fighting.  Now, if a child comes forward and says he hit me and I hit him back because he's been bullying me, he has to have an established pattern of bullying before that's considered a self-defense claim," said Chief Paul Cannette of the Biloxi Schools Campus Police Department.

The law also protects school employees who've been bullied by students or their co-workers. The bullying can occur off-campus as well, like on a bus, at school functions or cyber-bullying.

The Biloxi School District adopted its bullying policy three years ago.  Chief Cannette said the new state law will change the way many people view bullying.  

"I hope it will make them safer, but I definitely know that it will make the school districts more aware of their environment," said Cannette.

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