News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It's an ongoing problem in some schools, and now, it's reaching kids at an even younger age.
Bullying can come in many forms, but when things get physical, what should parents do to make sure their kids are safe?
Regina Djigal is the mother of a third grader who is being bullied at Meadowbrook Elementary.
"He doesn't understand why this is happening," she said.
Her son is a straight-A student. She says he won a citizenship award and pretty much keeps to himself.
"I teach them you go to school, you keep your hands to yourself, you keep your mouth shut and you do your work, which is to learn," Djigal said.
But, for the past three weeks, her son has been the victim of three separate attacks by bullies, two of them leaving him bruised and beaten.
"My son came home and he was crying. I asked him what was wrong and he said that three little boys had jumped him on the way home from school," Djigal said.
Dr. John Felton, principal at Meadowbrook Elementary, says the kids involved in the incidents were suspended according to the school's code of conduct.
Djigal admitted, "The principal did as much as he could do."
But she's worried it won't be enough, saying, "I'm scared of losing my child. I'm scared that he will have to become one of these people just to defend himself."
And, as a single working mom with four kids, changing schools isn't an option.
"That's actually like we're being penalized for him being bullied," she said.
Richmond County educators say part of the problem is the loss of funding for programs that used to help students who acted out.
"Once before in Richmond County, we had what we called a 'PASS' program," Felton said.
Instead of suspension, the PASS program used to send elementary students to another school for a few weeks, complete with discipline, continued education and counselors on hand to help address and redirect behavior issues.
"The program was very effective at that time," Felton said.
But since federal funding for the program was cut and the state does not fund in-school suspension for elementary students, the only option is out-of-school suspension.
The principal says when the students involved in the bullying return from suspension, they will be placed in a different classroom. They also offer counseling for both the victim and the bullies.
Alternative school is not an option for these children because the alternative school in Richmond County is only for sixth through 12th graders.