Mon. Jul 6th, 2020

Parent says Cobb schools under report bullying numbers

Parent says Cobb schools under report bullying numbers

A Cobb County parent is threatening legal action, alleging the school system does not comply with state anti-bullying laws and underreports bullying incidents.

In a notice sent to Cobb schools Tuesday, Rob Madayag, an attorney with three children in Cobb schools, said he will seek a court order “instructing” the district to change its policies to reflect state law. Madayag, who is running for a seat on the Cobb school board, also said he will petition the court to supervise all of the district’s funding until the school system can show it’s in compliance.

Madayag’s notice alleges the district has underreported its bullying statistics to the state. In 2014, Cobb had 616 incidents of bullying. That number dropped to 328 in 2015, 119 in 2016, 114 in 2017 and 85 in 2018. The 86 percent drop between 2014 and 2018 is a “rate of reduction that defies all logic and reason, and is a significant outlier with respect to all the other school districts in the metro Atlanta area,” the notice said.

Comparatively, Fulton County schools, which has about 94,000 students, reported 316 incidents of bullying in 2018, according to the notice. In the same year, Gwinnett County, the largest district in the state with 178,800 students, had 222 incidents of bullying and DeKalb schools, with 102,000 students, reported 630 incidents. The Cobb County School District has about 112,000 students.

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Using that information, Cobb’s bullying numbers — 0.75 incidents per 1,000 students in 2018 — are far lower than other metro counties. Gwinnett reported 1.2 incidents per 1,000 students, Fulton 3.4, DeKalb 6.2.

Mitch Skandalakis, an attorney representing Madayag, said the notice is asking the district to put a stop to bullying at its schools. Children are bullied on a daily basis and the encounters often escalate to fights, he said. When administrators break up the fights, they often discipline the victims because they initiatied the altercation, he added. This artificially lowers the bullying rate by labelling the incident as a fight, he said.

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A Cobb County School District spokeswoman said the facts “are wildly different than the narrative” provided by Madayag.

“Through guidance and support provided by the federal and state government, we are confident our supports for students are in compliance with both policy and the law,” Nan Kiel said.

Madayag, who is challenging Cobb school board incumbent David Banks in the May 19 Republican primary, said his daughter was the victim of bullying. He said he has heard from several parents who said the school district mishandled their children’s battles with bullies.

“What I want is the schools to investigate bullying the way the Georgia legislature intended them to,” he said.

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The state’s law, enacted in 2010, defines bullying in three parts: a willful attempt or threat to harm another person; an intentional display or force that would instill fear; and any intentional written, verbal or physical act that would cause physical harm, interfere with a student’s education, create an intimidating environment ordisrupt the orderly operation of a school.

Skandalakis said the requests in the notice are simple methods Cobb County can use to thwart bullying behavior in its schools.

“When you shut them down, you don’t give them that venue to continue doing what they are doing,” he said of bullies.

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Published at Fri, 28 Feb 2020 19:33:00 +0000

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