SOUTH CAROLINA (WCSC) - Live 5 News anchor Bill Sharpe testified Tuesday before lawmakers in Columbia on the effects of school bullying on his son.
Rep. Samuel Rivers Jr., who represents Berkeley and Charleston counties, is the sponsor of two bills lawmakers are reviewing in the Education subcommittee.
Lawmakers discussed and debated several bills, including H.4701, which seeks to provide procedures for responding to and dealing with allegations of bullying.
"[I had] parents giving me a call and writing to explain what's going on with their child," Rivers said. "Some parents have removed their child out of the public-school system, and that's not what we really want. We want to make sure every child is in a safe and nurturing environment to learn."
Rivers added he received a handwritten letter from a child who was taken out of school because of the amount of bullying she was going through.
"She was the genesis for this movement," he said.
The "B.P. Act", which stands for bullying prevention, would require schools to notify the parents of the accused bully and the victim about the incident.
It would also require the school to fully investigate the accusations and eventually hold a meeting between all parties involved, according to Rivers.
"A lot of this requires parent involvement," Rivers said. "The next part of this legislation would require parents to attend two out of five counseling sessions."
Rivers hopes to incorporate part of H.4702 into the bill being discussed Tuesday. He feels that if a bullying situation is confirmed, the student who did the bullying should go through counseling sessions as part of the disciplinary action. However, Rivers feels parents should be held responsible as well.
"I do understand there are parents who are working and they may not be able to make it to every counseling session, which is why I changed the language in the current bill from last year's."
Lawmakers will also discuss some of the alternative disciplinary actions proposed in the bill which includes but is not limited to:
- Writing an essay about the student’s misbehavior
- Anger management
- Community service
- In-school detention or suspension
Rivers said right now school districts across the state have different disciplinary actions for students involved in bullying which can create issues.
"This is about uniformity," he said. "This means that one school isn't doing one thing and another school isn't doing a separate thing."
Rivers expects several parents who have been affected by bullying to testify at the hearing Tuesday.
Sharpe will attend to provide insight into what his son, William, has experienced in the classroom. Sharpe has posted to social media several times claiming his son has been a victim of bullying.
"This is a real issue," Rivers said. "I know of kids who don't want to go to school because the bullying is so bad. There are parents who have had children commit suicide. We want to make sure that doesn't happen."