SC lawmaker files anti-bullying bill

SC lawmaker files anti-bullying bill

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A senator in Horry County wants to make a change to stop bullying in SC schools. The bill, if passed, would protect school employees and volunteers who intervene in bullying cases from criminal prosecution and civil liability.

Chairman of the Horry County Board of Education, Joe DeFeo, says the district has dealt with employees being sued from holding back a student's arm to stop a fight. Those are the law suits the district hopes this bill will stop.

Attorney Jarrett Calder said South Carolina law already allows people to intervene in the defense of others where it is reasonable and necessary. However, DeFeo said that hasn't been enough

"If a bus driver lays his hand on a student right now in current law, of course you could break up the fight and nothing happen, but [the bus drivers] are very highly subject to a law suit just for holding back someone's arm from punching somebody," explains DeFeo.

Those law suits have happened. The bill reads a school employee or volunteer may gratuitously intervene on behalf of a student subject to harassment, intimidation or bullying.

"These are protections not just for the administrators and the bus drivers and the teachers and teachers aids," DeFeo continued. "It's protection for the student who is being picked on and bullied."

However, Calder is reading things a little differently.

"It makes no sense to me other than to shield the employees and the school district from civil liability," says Calder.

Calder explains the bill could do more harm than good. If passed, the bill could protect school district employee or volunteers from a potential civil case, even if a teacher were to assault a student while defending another.

"We cannot in the absence of the proper protections, allow a student to be bullied just because a teacher is afraid to intervene," says DeFeo.

Defeo believes Republican Senator Ray Cleary of Murrells Inlet was compelled to write this bill after a recent bullying incident at Socastee High School.

On November 20, eight Socastee High School students allegedly bullied a student with special needs, placed a trash can over his head and video taped it.

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DeFeo says he hopes that if a fight were to happen in a school right now, a school official would intervene, even in the absence of this bill. That's because there is chance of liability if an official does or doesn't do anything.

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