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Report: More than 7,500 bullying cases reported in 2012-13

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A Tennessee Department of Education report released in October shows 7,555 cases of bullying were reported in Tennessee public schools during the 2012-13 school year.

According to the data submitted to the state’s Department of Education by school officials statewide, 5,478 — or 72.51 percent — of bullying reports submitted were confirmed after investigation.

The report was required under anti-bullying legislation passed by the Tennesee General Assembly in 2012.

Of those bullying cases reported, 321 were based on race, color or national origin, 695 concerned sex- or gender-based discrimination, and 168 involved a student’s disability.

“The numbers in this report are very alarming,” said state Sen. Bill Ketron, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate.

“Besides the obvious emotional harm bullying does to a student personally, it also hampers the kind of classroom atmosphere that promotes learning,” the Murfreesboro Republican said.

“This is a systemic problem that we need to address not only in our schools, but in our homes, churches, community organizations, on the ball field and elsewhere.”

State Rep. Charles Curtiss, a Sparta Democrat, sponsored the legislation in the state House of Representatives.

“This is so sad,” Curtiss said. “I am very pleased that this information is now coming forward so we can do something about it.”

According to the report, 564 — or 7.47 percent — of the bullying cases reported to the Department of Education were lodged via electronic technology.

The legislation sponsored by Ketron and Curtiss also strengthened Tennessee’s law against bullying and cyberbullying through the use of electronic devices.

In addition, it required each Local Education Agency, at the beginning of the school year, to provide teachers and school counselors with a copy of the school’s bullying policy and its implementation process, information on prevention and strategies to address bullying and harassment when it happens, as well as relevant training on the issue.

“Based on the information available to the Tennessee Department of Education, each local education agency ... in Tennessee satisfied the requirements of the state bullying and harassment laws and submitted bullying compliance information,” the report said.

“We are pleased that the report shows our local boards are now providing the information and training to help prevent bullying,” Curtiss said. “We hope that we will see improvement that will be reflected by statistics in the next report as a result of these efforts.”