Tennessee schools crack down on cyber-bullying - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Tennessee schools crack down on cyber-bullying

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As a new school year gets underway, a new Tennessee law allows school systems to take a tougher stance on bullying, more specifically, cyber-bullying.

We talked with the director of McMinn County Schools. He wants to spread the word to parents and students that cyber-bullying now falls under 'zero tolerance,' meaning every threat made online or through text messaging, will be addressed.

"A lot of times, in the heat of the moment, they put that on there and they don't realize the seriousness of what they're posting. Then other students retweet it, repost it," says Mickey Blevins, Director of McMinn County Schools.

Blevins says with the new school year, comes a tougher stance on stopping cyber-bullying.

"If a student posts something on Facebook or Twitter, that is threatening in tone, then that gives us the right to suspend them. And we don't like having to do that, but we suspend them for five days," says Blevins.

The five days is spent investigating the threat and deciding appropriate action.

A new Tennessee state law gives schools more power in handling cyber-bullying threats, putting them in the same 'zero tolerance' category as drugs and physical fighting.

"It does disrupt the school environment," says Blevins.

"Anything that can harm a person, can really negatively affect the whole culture of a school," says Vant Hardaway.

Vant Hardaway is the Supervisor of Safety for McMinn County Schools. He encourages parents to talk with their children about the possible lasting effects.

"We want to help them get a good education. So we want parents to understand, partner with us. Let's not become adversarial," he says.

"It needs to come from home first. And if they're well behaved at home, they won't have that much of a problem at school," says Charlotte Lankford.

Grandmother Charlotte Lankford supports the new measure, and agrees, starting at home can make a big difference. She says it shows with her grandkids.

"They have a limit on their internet time and they have boundaries and if they go over that or past that, they get it taken away," says Lankford.

"The main thing for parents is to know what's going on with their child's Facebook page or their Twitter page, to be involved and have good communications with their children," says Blevins.

Blevins says his students are taking cyber-bullying very seriously. He says students at McMinn High have already formed the 'Speak Up Club' to address bullying issues.

Hardaway says in extreme cases, students can be removed from the school setting up to a calendar year.

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