by Cynthia Gould
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — An important new law is on the books for schools this year when students return to class. HB366 is a comprehensive anti-bullying law which passed the state legislature last March. Schools are now mandated to follow a number of recommendations to help fight bullying not just on school grounds, but also cyberbullying and off campus threats.
Laura Burks shared the story of her daughter Sarah, who went from a teenager planning to graduate from high school early and attend college to a girl tormented by bullies and afraid to go to the bathroom at school. The sixteen year old transferred to a virtual school program, but her mother says she was still harassed by students from Baldwin County High School. Laura Burks tells ABC 33/40 News she reported the bullying to school officials and did not get a response. Sarah took her own life last November.
Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, says bullying can "absolutely play a role in a person's suicide risk." She explains it needs to be addressed fully, especially in younger adults.
ABC 33/40 News received this statement from the Terry Whilhite with the Baldwin County School System:
"This is a horrific tragedy that is heartbreaking. Sarah Burks was enrolled at the Baldwin County Virtual School and had been for quite some time at the time of her death. Superintendent Eddie Tyler personally investigated this matter to see if there were any reports of bullying that had been reported to administrators and there had not been any report to any administrator. We have very approachable school resource officers, teachers and administrators, the nationally-recognized student Peer Helper program began in our county, and we have resources for parents and students available on our web site, bcbe.org. To do even more, we are leading a multi-agency effort in the fall called “Shatter the Silence” that helps parents help their children, not just with recognizing signs and symptoms that may lead to self-harm, but to help students be resilient in the troubling, complicated and confusing word in which we live."
Please read the new law in its entirety below: