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Program could provide a way out for bullied students


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Reported by: Sharon Phillips
Updated: 12/05/2012 6:10 pm Published: 12/05/2012 5:23 pm



It’s not a bill or even law, but some parents are hoping it will soon be a reality.
Providing a way out for student’s who are bullied involves changing the child’s geographical location. There are pros and cons to both sides, and it would involve tax dollars. It’s called a Safety Opportunity Scholarship, and parents who are concerned with their child’s wellbeing at school, could have the opportunity to transfer them out even if it’s to a private institution.

We first brought you 13-year old Bethany’s story back in September.
She attends Union Public Schools.

"My granddaughter was being bullied at school, and she went home on the bus and she was just attacked,” says her grandma, Rhonda Holland.

Bethany ended up battered and bruised with extreme emotional trauma.

"It really affected her and she is still trying to work through it,” says Holland.

But, if Oklahoma utilizes the Safety Opportunity Scholarship program, it could mean a way out for students like Bethany.

"They can take their taxpayer funds for education and go somewhere else to another public school or a private school,” says Melissa Abdo, coordinator for the Parent Legislative Action Committee.

According to a recent guest editorial in NewsOk.com, scholarships could match the state per-pupil funding at the student’s current public school.

"I think they should explore the potential of this bill because I think it does great things. Not only does it make our kids feel safer, it also makes them feel important,” says Holland.

Abdo is the mother of two children at Jenks and is a current candidate for the Jenks School Board. Making sure her children get a solid and safe education is her number one priority.

"I don't know that the answer to that is to take public funds for public education and allow those to be transferred to a private school,” says Abdo.

Instead, she would like to see more student-centered programs about bullying at each local district. Abdo says she fears the program wouldn’t do anything to empower the student being bullied or teach them the skills about how to deal with bullying.

Currently, there is no bill in Oklahoma that has been authored regarding the Safety Opportunity Scholarship program, but it is being discussed and could be introduced at a later date in our state legislature in the future.

We contacted the State Department of Education and here is their response to the idea of a Safety Opportunity Scholarship Program from State Superintendent, Janet Barresi’s office:

"Every child in the state must be educated in a safe environment. While we urge schools to focus on creating and maintaining a safe environment through appropriate and effective policy and enforcement, Superintendent Barresi believes that each parent should have the right to make appropriate choices for their child's education."

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