Representative: Stronger law needed to stop bullying in Aiken Co.

Bullying at School

Parents say the bullying problem at Leavelle McCampbell Middle School has gotten so bad that their children have sustained serious injuries. (WRDW-TV / Feb. 23, 2012)

Click here to see News 12's special assignment on bullying at Leavelle Campbell Middle School.

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Feb. 27, 2012

WARRENVILLE, S.C. -- South Carolina State Rep. Roland Smith is ready to act.

"I think we need to take another look at the language in the current bill," said Smith, R-Aiken.

He's responding to News 12's special assignment on an alleged bullying problem at an Aiken County middle school.

"We can do it by proviso, but that's only one-year law. I think it's something that needs to be in permanent law that we would go ahead and get addressed and strengthen the bullying laws in this state," Smith said.

He cosponsored South Carolina's original anti-bullying law, the Safe School Climate Act. That was signed by the governor back in 2006 as states across the country tackled a growing problem.

"We felt that it was incumbent upon us as legislators to address those issues," he said.

It's the law the Aiken County Public School District's code of student conduct has to follow. All of the other state school districts must comply as well. But six years later, Smith says the legislation has failed in some regards.

"Do I think it is working? Perhaps somewhat, but not like it was intended to work," he told News 12.

Just last session, a group of state senators tried to beef up the two-page bill. The amendments would require a principal to inform the parents of all students involved in an alleged incident. But primarily, the bill added five subsections about how an incident should be investigated. The Senate bill never made it out of the Education Committee.

As for problems at Leavelle McCambell Middle School, Rep. Smith and State Sen. Shane Massey, R-Aiken, are both very concerned.

"I don't want to interfere in something where I don't belong, but if there's something I can do to help in order to protect the children ... then I certainly want to do that," Massey said.

And despite a principal's stance that bullying is not a problem while dozens of parents and students tell us otherwise, Smith has some advice.

"If the perception is there, then it's a reality, and that's a major concern," he said.

Smith says he wants to see more of an open dialogue between Aiken County and the parents. He says their plates are pretty full this session, so the stricter legislation is probably something for next session.

State Rep. Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken, says he hopes they can get something to the floor a little faster.


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