County schools may adopt anti-harassment policy

Published 12:58 am Saturday, October 30, 2010

LINDEN — The Marengo County Board of Education may soon draft a policy that would help police various forms of harassment among students. Marengo County Schools Superintendent Luke Hallmark announced Thursday to the board of education his intention to draft such a policy.

Specifics regarding what the policy would contain and how it might be implemented are not yet available as the plan is still in its formative stages.

“I’ve got a model that I’ve developed and put together,” Hallmark said. “I just want to run it by the board attorney.”

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Hallmark indicated his decision to push for such a policy is not a reflection of any incidents in Marengo County Schools, rather it comes as a pre-emptive strike.

“I think it is something all school systems need to have in place,” Hallmark said.

The notion is shared by a growing number of individuals and organizations wearied by the recent rash of teen suicides which have been linked to bullying. One such incident happened earlier this month in Graham, Wash. where a 16-year-old boy shot himself. Friends of the boy later reported that the student was motivated by bullying, including a derogatory text message that had been circulated not long before his death.

Such incidents have garnered an outcry from organizations such as Montgomery’s Southern Poverty Law Center, which earlier this month called for all Alabama schools to draft policies regarding such incidents.

The SPLC focused the crux of its plea on policies specifically regarding the harassment of teenagers based upon sexual preference.

“Most Alabama students attend schools that lack anti-harassment protection for (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students,” Sam Wolfe, SPLC staff attorney, wrote in an Oct. 20 article. “Because the MOdel Policy only prohibits bullying based on characteristics of race, sex, religion, national origin, and disability, LGBT students are denied protection afforded to other students and are in special danger. We ask the (Alabama State Department of Education) to strengthen the Model Policy by specifying anti-harassment protection for students based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. All students should feel safe at school, and an inclusive policy that addresses anti-LGBT bullying will help achieve that goal.”

While there is not yet any indication of what the Marengo County Schools’ policy would cover, Hallmark was clear as to his intentions in adopting such an approach.

“I just want the message to be sent that we’re not going to tolerate harassment of kids,” Hallmark said.