MATTOON -- The local that organized a small anti-bullying demonstration in October confronted the school district board Tuesday.

In a brief statement to board members and administrators at the meeting, Tina Lee questioned the district’s efforts in combating bullying.

“We just don't know why it says zero tolerance and we are still seeing a lot of bullying that is going on,” Lee said. “I don't understand how we can stop (bullying).”

Lee cited a member of her family who “wants to kill himself” because of the kids bullying in the school system.

In response, Mattoon Superintendent Larry Lilly said the school has been working on enhancing student social and emotional programs.

“Those are those programs where we are trying to teach kids respect for self, respect for others, how to talk to one another, how to get along with one another,” he said. “Do we bat a 1000?... No. We don't bat 1000. I don't know that many school districts out there that do.”

“The important thing is we are going to continue to work on that and move forward and build upon our programming K-12 in terms of helping those kids with social and emotional learning programs,” he continued.

Larry also mentioned the district’s efforts to work on the tasks the school board placed on those in the district. At a previous meeting, the school board had four focuses for the district to work on.

These include:

-- maintaining focus on healing students, staff and families

-- review and revise building safety plans with emergency personnel

-- review and enhance social, emotional and instructional growth

-- explore partnerships with health providers to offer support in meeting student’s health needs

Lee and others banded together in October to address similar concerns to the school district and the community following the shooting at Mattoon High School Sept. 20. They claimed bullying as a reason for the shooting.

As previously reported, some sources have indicated that bullying might have been the motivation for the shooting. In a statement made Sept. 29, school administrators and local police leaders cautioned the public about the media’s or community’s assumptions or rumors, including bullying, that led to the shooting.

No one in an official capacity who is involved in the investigation has confirmed any motives or specific situations that led to the shooting.

Also at the meeting, the board accepted a donation of a “state-of-the-art” camera system to Mattoon High School in the wake of the shooting.

Todd Ratliff, Total Home & Farm Video Solutions of Mattoon owner, coordinated a donation from his business, Panasonic and Razberi.

Panasonic will be donating 60 cameras to the school. Razberi would donate three servers with 32 terabytes of storage. And Ratliff’s business will be donating the wiring, switches and other assorted things needed for the system.

The district would be responsible for labor to install the system, which will be an estimated $20,000, Ratliff said.

Currently, the school has only 12 cameras that predominantly cover the inside of the school, Lilly said. The new camera system would be a major overhaul and would allow the school to cover pretty much every part of the campus, both inside and out.

“It is like comparing a watermelon to a dump truck” when comparing where the camera system is now to where it is going, Ratliff said.

Lilly said the system would hopefully get set up over Christmas break.

The district as a whole might get more police coverage in the future as well. The board approved an agreement with the Mattoon to get another school resource officer.

Only one resource officer, Kasey Alexander, currently patrols the school campuses across the city. Covering an entire school system has divided Alexander’s time though, Lilly noted, prompting the need for a second resource officer.

With the addition of another, there would likely be an officer covering the east side schools while another covers the west side schools, Lilly said.

The Mattoon City Council will still need to OK the potential hire also. The city would be in charge of the hiring for the position. Lilly said he hopes to have an officer on staff sometime during the next school semester, should the hire be allowed.

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Reporter

Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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