HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. — Bullies cause trouble in nearly every school in every community in North Carolina.
School bullying may have led to the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado five years ago. It has been speculated that the two gunmen suffered years of harassment from other students.
As schools across the country try to figure out how to handle bullies, a local mother wants her son's case to make a difference everywhere.
Bullying and the behavior it breeds is an issue Betty Tom Davidson wants state lawmakers to address. Davidson said her son was a victim of bullies in the seventh grade.
"He was punched in the stomach," she said. "He said it was happening in the lunchroom and while they changed classes."
When Davidson felt the school failed to address the issue, she resigned from the Orange County School Board to send a message. Now, she wants to take that message to the General Assembly.
She wants the state to give principals a better definition of bullying -- and how to handle it.
"We must define very clearly what a well-trained principal is," she said.
A school district spokesperson, who said she could not comment on the Davidson case, stated that a district-wide policy on bullying is being finalized. She also said bullying is a complicated issue that all districts deal with.
"The problem with bullying is how do you define it?" district spokesperson Anne D'Annunzio said. "Anytime a student has a situation, we take it seriously and follow through with it."
Davidson said she knows there are tough calls but added that: "leadership does set the tone."
Even tougher, perhaps, is legislating leadership. But Davidson believes that giving leaders more guidelines to follow can strengthen the process.
According to state education officials, most schools address bullying with harassment and intimidation policies. An advisory group is determining whether the actual word "bullying" should be included in those policies.