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Decatur city schools to focus on bullying

By Catherine Godbey · 340-2441

After an effective campaign against sexual harassment, Decatur city schools will now focus on bullying.

In 2003, Phil Hastings, supervisor of safety and alternative education, focused on eliminating sexual harassment from the schools.

Since 2004, the number of students placed in the Center for Alternatives to Suspension for sexual harassment decreased by 60 percent.

Next, Hastings is targeting students who harass and intimidate others — also known as school bullies.

As sexual harassment cases decreased, the percentage of cases involving intimidation tripled. Last year, schools sent 157 students to CASE for intimidation.

Hastings expects to increase awareness of harassment and intimidation by placing emphasis on these offenses. Instead of them automatically decreasing, he anticipates the number of reported harassment cases to increase.

“The numbers usually go up because we emphasize it and more kids report the offense,” Hastings said.

Compared to the 2006 fiscal year, the number of students sent to CASE last year increased by 101.

The number of students sent to the Center for Alternatives to Expulsion during the 2007 fiscal year also increased.

Fifty-six referrals — more than half — were for the offense of causing a habitual disruption.

“In these cases we usually have students who are constantly disruptive in school,” Hastings said, “or students who make one bad mistake.”

Hastings hopes by placing students in the Centers for Alternates to Suspension and Expulsion, the city’s dropout rate will decrease and the graduation rate will go up.

These centers offer students the ability to continue their education even though they are removed from their schools for certain periods of time.

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