Bricken to work on legislation addressing bullying off school grounds

Channing Smith 

In light of the recent tragedy related to the death of Channing Smith, Coffee County Central High School student who took his own life Sept. 22, State Representative Rush Bricken plans to work on legislation addressing bullying that happens while students are off school grounds.

According to Channing’s family members, Channing had been cyberbullied.

Bricken said he will be working on formulating legislation dealing with juvenile bullying outside of school environment over the next several months.

Current state law requires every school district to have a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment as well as procedures for investigating reports of bullying and harassment.

The Coffee County School’s policy defines bullying/intimidation/harassment, as an “act that substantially interferes with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities, or performance.”  The act has the effect of: physically harming a student or damaging a student’s property; knowingly placing a student or students in reasonable fear of physical harm to the student or damage to the student’s property; causing emotional distress to a student or students; or creating a hostile educational environment.

The policy defines cyber bullying as a form of bullying undertaken through the use of electronic devices, including telephones, cell phones or other wireless telecommunication devices, text messaging, emails, social networking sites, instant messaging, videos, websites or fake profiles.

Coffee County School’s policy states: “If the act takes place off school property or outside of a school-sponsored activity, this policy is in effect if the conduct is directed specifically at a student or students and has the effect of creating a hostile educational environment or otherwise creating a substantial disruption to the education environment or learning process.”

Coffee County Schools Director Dr. Charles Lawson issued the following statement on Sept. 27 regarding Channing: “In regards to this particular incident, law enforcement conducted an investigation to determine actions taken by the youths involved.  In the course of the investigation, there was not any indication that the actions in question occurred on school grounds or in the course of school activities.  The school district is limited in enforcing behaviors conducted at these times.”