STOKES COUNTY, N.C. — Following an eighth-grade student's suicide at the beginning of the school year, Stokes County is addressing bullying in the district.
“We’ve had a wakeup call of what can happen if somebody is being bullied and it continues,” Stokes County Schools Superintendent Dr. Brad Rice said.
District leaders are taking a stand after the death of a 13-year-old student two weeks ago.
Kallie Fagg was an eighth grader at Southeastern Stokes Middle School. Three days into the school year, she took her own life.
Her dad said she was being severely bullied at school.
“No kid should be terrified to go to school like that," Jimmy Fagg, Kallies's father, said. "My daughter all last year - the last three months of school - every other day she would call me and say, 'look daddy, I'm sick, can I come home from school?' Now I’m almost positive she was just wanting to get away from bullies.”
Now, leaders are making changes to put an end to bullying in the district.
Superintendent of Stokes County Schools Dr. Brad Rice said the district is implementing new policies to address the issue.
“When this situation has happened, we’ve said - you know what, we can’t go through this again. We have to eliminate a problem if you will," Rice said.
Middle and high school students caught bullying will not be allowed to take part in extracurricular activities for 90 days and will face a five-day out-of-school suspension. If a student has a second offense, they will lose extracurricular activities for a full calendar year and will face a ten-day out-of-school suspension with a referral to the district's alternative school. If a third offense occurs, students will lose extracurricular activities indefinitely and receive a ten-day out-of-school suspension with a recommendation for long-term suspension.
While these consequences may seem harsh to some, Rice said they are needed to ensure no student thinks about taking their own life.
“We want a strong message that if you are not going to treat others with respect in Stokes County Schools and you’re going to bully them, then you will not be a student at our schools," Rice said.
Fagg said changes like these are needed to ensure no other family goes through what he's been experiencing.
“That’s why I made it a point, I always told my kids, I love you every time you walk out the door because you never know what might happen," Fagg said.
The new policies should be in place at each school by September 18. Parents will receive more information in the coming days about these guidelines and the consequences involved.
Rice said Stokes County has a mission of kindness.
“What we want is for people to behave and treat each other with kindness and treat each other with respect in our buildings. That’s our goal, and that’s what we’re wanting to do," Rice said. "This is a way to reinforce that but also let students and their families understand the seriousness of this.”
The district will be requiring teachers to undergo additional bullying-related training. They will also host meetings this fall for families, aimed at teaching parents what to look out for.