James Judd’s nephews know firsthand about bullying in Laurens County schools.
“A fifth grader pushed him down in the hallway and then twisted his arm and broke it,” Judd said.
That's why he and dozens of other showed up to a Laurens County school board meeting Thursday night.
“You’re supposed to be able to go to school and be in a safe environment,” Judd said. “He's supposed to have protectors there, and it doesn’t seem like they're doing anything.”
Only one parent was able to address the board during the meeting. That’s because Laurens County school board policy requires a 5-day advance notice for any person wishing to address the board. A few parents burst out after Sterling Herrin spoke. They wanted answers from the board, but many felt they didn’t get what they were looking for and walked out of the meeting.
“I’m sorry that we could not address it,” school board chair Brenda Hilton said. “Before I was on the board, I didn’t understand that policy, but we've had a lot of training that explains that. We all know that we cannot speak unless we have a town meeting.”
Superintendent Juli Alligood did say a few words about bullying, trying to assure parents they hear their frustration and are working to solve the problem.
“Principals have been in training, and Dr. Alligood has been meeting with the principals,” Hilton said. “She has led a group on how to investigate because we felt like they need to do a little better job investigating.”
That’s what Judd wishes would happen to help keep his nephews safe.
“I hope the Board of Education stands up and does something, and does something quick,” Judd said.
After the meeting the Laurens County Board of Education released the following statement:
"At the regularly scheduled March meeting, the Laurens County Board of Education, several parents expressed concerns in regards to the Laurens County bullying policy and how students are disciplined. We very much take every report of these incidents seriously and investigate each to its fullest. Discussing individual allegations of bullying is not appropriate in a public setting. The school system is bound by confidentiality and will protect the rights of students by not discussing their personal situation publicly. Parents are welcome to address the board. In order to preserve order in the board of education meetings and to make it possible for your voice to actually be heard, a request must be made for audience participation. If you feel your child is being bullied, please report it to your child’s school administrators. If your concerns are not dealt with to your satisfaction, please call Dr. Juli Alligood at (478) 272-4767. Students’ safety is our number one priority. We respect the fact that you entrust us with your children and are committed to their safety and their need to feel safe, first and foremost.”