"Bully Buster" program empowers students

By: Diane Cho Email
By: Diane Cho Email

December 12, 2006

Tonight parents will sit down with the Aiken County Board of Education to talk about bullies.

The board is going to pass a new bullying policy, as mandated by state law.

You can give your opinion at the office on Brookhaven Drive starting at 7 o'clock.

The policy broadens the definition of bullying to include not only physically or emotionally harming another student, but also the perception of bullying.

But one school already has a successful program to fight the teasing, even violence.

News 12's Diane Cho spent the day with the Bully Busters.

It seems the Bully Busters program is one step ahead of state legislators.

In Lexington County, a group of 40 students at Batesburg-Leesville Middle School are taught how to recognize bullying behavior and what to do once they see it.

Ever since the deadly shooting in Columbine that left 15 students dead, lawmakers in South Carolina have shed light on a problem that's been going on for years.

Tami Dougherty formed the "Bully Busters" program at Batesburg-Leesville Middle School to prevent problems of school bullying before it turns into violence.

"Some kids say, 'If we don't do something I'll be in a fight,' and they want intervention before it gets worse," she told News 12.

The program allows students to leave anonymous tips in a box so guidance counselors and administrators can track the student's problems and address them.

Students like sixth grader Austin Hallman become an extra set of eyes in the classroom.

"A lot of people pick on kids because they think they're bigger, stronger and more powerful than them," Austin said. "They know the teachers aren't always watching, but they know students are reporting back and most of them stop."

Even though the program is only a year old, students say it's already working.

"It helps people build confidence and they try to laugh now and make friends," said Tysheryce Johnston.

But she says it wasn't always that way at school.

"I saw a lot of people being picked on," she said. "They'd cry and say, 'I don't know why I'm getting picked on.'"

Dougherty says a lot of the students she sees are afraid of telling anyone because they fear nothing will be done about the problem or they fear retaliation, but the new policy protects those students by taking disciplinary action.

"Self-control is more strength than hitting someone, and if you fight fire with fire, everyone gets burned," Dougherty said.

State law requires all 85 school districts adopt the policy by January 1. If it's passed at tonight's meeting, Aiken County's policy will take effect immediately.

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