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Hall schools target online bullying
System plans new policies, grant money to tackle harassment in and out of school
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In other school business, the board announced the fund balance is in better shape than originally predicted last year.
The district expected an ending fund balance in 2011 of about $3 million, but thanks to federal stimulus funds, it now predicts about $9 million. Part of the money was used to restore a furlough day and to help students pay for Advanced Placement exams after funding for the exams was cut, but the rest will be pushed forward for next year.
Officials expect another challenging financial year and continued budget cuts at the state and federal level.
“We’re in as good of shape as we possibly could be but we’re still not flush with cash,” Superintendent Will Schofield said.

Hall County Schools is working to stay ahead of bullying, and plan to make some policy changes in the next several months.

The focus at Monday’s school board meeting was on “cyberbullying,” which involves the use of communication technologies to support deliberate and hostile behavior by an individual or group.

“It’s a real thing and we know that,” Jim Sargent, Hall County Director of Student Services said.

In 1999, the Georgia General Assembly enacted bullying legislation and required schools to adopt anti-bullying policies. This year, the law was modified and the definition of bullying was expanded.

Sargent said there have been cases of cyberbullying in Hall County, but they usually occur off school property. In a recent case, a parent said their child was being harassed by cell phone calls at 2 a.m.

“We have a difficult time intervening in these situations, but we can certainly enter the counseling and intervention piece,” Sargent said.

He adds that cyber harassment often is a challenging thing to monitor.

“It’s so hard to catch because very little happens in school. It’s on Facebook and YouTube,” he said.

The district has used some of its Safe and Drug Free School grant money to give schools money for anti-bullying materials.

Further grant money paid for a booklet called “Net Cetera,” which was sent to parents throughout Hall County. It provided information about the risks of cyberspace and how parents can better monitor their children.

Sargent said all staff throughout Hall County will receive training about how to respond to bullying, not only counselors and administrators. There will also be a higher level of documentation of bullying cases. A sign will be posted in every school by August stating that bullying is prohibited, Sargent said.

The school district will review its policies with attorneys to make sure it meets state law.

The Gainesville school board also approved a new policy on bullying last month to comply with state law. The district set a deadline for Jan. 31 to train teachers, administrators and paraprofessionals on the new standards.

By next school year, all schools are required to have age-appropriate disciplines for all grade levels, not only six to 12 as specified in the 1999 mandate.

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