Suffolk bullying bill would hold officials responsible

Jamie Isaacs, 14, of Lake Grove, says she Jamie Isaacs, 14, of Lake Grove, says she was bullied by classmates in school. (May 10, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

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The bullies at school were so mean to Jamie Isaacs for so long, her parents said, that her grades suffered, she fell into depression and her parents tried selling their Lake Grove house.

Isaacs, 14, is at the center of proposed anti-bullying legislation in Suffolk that would hold school administrators responsible for writing up repeated incidents of bullying and punishing children who bully.

"I was scared to walk to the end of my driveway," Isaacs said Monday while sitting at her dining room table. "If someone tells you they want to kill you, that's not something you can just let go."

Beginning in the second grade, classmates at Sachem Central School District's Wenonah Elementary School in Lake Grove hit her with book bags, poked her with sharpened pencils and threatened her on the school bus, in hallways and online, she and her parents said. Books and clothes were stolen from her locker, she said, and in online postings she printed and saved, it was suggested she partake in graphic sexual acts.

Suffolk Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor), who sponsored the legislation, along with another bill banning cyberbullying in the county, said he was spurred to act after hearing the family's story.

"My concern is that some school administrators or teachers don't take the problem of bullying seriously enough," Cooper said. "For whatever reason, they turn a blind eye to these activities that take place under their watch."

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Jamie's parents, Anne and Ronald Isaacs, plan to testify on behalf of Cooper's legislation at Tuesday's public hearing in Hauppauge. The family Monday described futile meetings with school administrators in which they were told incidents on school buses were not their concern. When their now-12-year-old son, Danny, told school officials a fellow student threatened him with a knife earlier this year, he was suspended for lying, the Isaacses said.

Starting in December 2007, the Isaacses filed four separate notices of claim against the Sachem school district, accusing administrators of failing to stop the bullying of Jamie and her brother Danny and suspending the children from school without cause. The Isaacses claimed damages for medical expenses to treat depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and insomnia, as well as for time they missed from work.

The Isaacs said they called Suffolk police to report harassment incidents, but a police spokeswoman Monday said an investigation into a 2007 harassment incident was found to be noncriminal.

Sachem school officials declined to comment on the Isaacses' case, citing "student privacy laws and ongoing litigation." In a statement released by the district's public relations firm, the district said it has a "zero-tolerance policy" for bullying.

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