NAPLES, Fla. -- Bullied students in public schools may have a new option to escape traumatic situations and create a fresh start. The Hope Scholarship proposed by State Legislator, Byron Donalds, gives students experiencing bullying a chance to transfer schools or receive a full ride scholarship to a private school.
“We’re talking about things that are more significant than just common bullying," said Donalds on the experiences some students face at school. "We’re talking about sexual harassment, sexual assault, battery, physical violence, real emotional trauma."
Donalds says there were at least 47,000 of violent incidents reported last year, but over 67,000 that went unreported. He wants the Hope Scholarship to provide a comfort for students to come forward.
"You want to make sure that if you’re being victimized, you have the opportunity to speak up. And if you feel that if 'I speak up, I can’t stay here,' then there has to be a mechanism for that child to leave.”
However, not everyone agrees that transferring schools is the best solution to bullying.
“I don’t know if I personally agree with people personally changing schools because bullying can happen anywhere," explained Mary Fischer, Lee Country School Board Member. "And in some situations that I’ve heard of, people have changed schools but then the same situation has occurred with different people.”
Donalds says the scholarship is to provide an extra option to help traumatized students move forward.
“All we want to do is make sure that’s there an avenue, if a child really can’t continue, if they are cutting class or cutting school altogether, that they have an opportunity to continue their academic career," he said.
One obstacle he faces with the proposal is that since the scholarship is publicly funded, many private schools will not accept it. Donalds says he hasn't figured out a solution to this just yet, but it is in the works. Fischer believes the money needs to stay where it already is.
"I do think that public funding should be used for public education and our charter schools."
Donalds plans on filing the Hope Scholarship proposal at the state capitol in the next couple of weeks.