TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Jeffery Johnston would be 21 years old had bullies not pushed him over the edge. In 2005, the Fort Myers teen took his own life after being picked on for three years. His death changed the way Florida schools handle bullies and their victims.
The "Jeffery Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act" was signed into law in 2008. It requires all Florida Public schools to have a bullying policy. It also gives schools some authority to police cyber bullying.
Victims of bullying are finding it harder to escape their harassers. Before text messages and social networking websites, victims could take solace at home.
Now sites like MySpace and Facebook give bullies a forum to create 24-hour teasing sessions where students are often humiliated in public forums.
The 2008 law cleared a way for schools to police online teasing if the attacks were sent from school computers.
Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda is fighting back through a public awareness campaign. “We can’t afford one child, one student to be affected by bullying.”
To kick things off, Bill Brummel, director of the educational film “Bullied,” is showing his movie to teachers and students. “I hope administration and faculties take the film and see it and also realize the long term consequences and really work hard to build a safer school environment.”
Florida has been praised for its progressive anti-bullying policies. Legislation to offer further protection to students will be discussed later this year.
This is the first year some school districts are tracking cases of bullying. By the end of the year the state should have a better grasp on just how bad the problem has gotten.
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