In addition to enforcing the Cherokee County School District policy, many schools run their own programs to stamp out bullying.
At River Ridge High School, where the Helping Everyone Reach Outstanding Individual Character program is in its second year of operation, school counselor Jeff Bennett said he's noticed a change in his sophomore students.
Those students, who were the first class to participate in the program last year when the school was housed at Mill Creek Middle School, are taking a stand and alerting him and other teachers to bullying.
"They understand that nothing can change unless they get involved," he said, noting about 25 students are actively involved with the program and will be visiting feeder schools to spread an anti-bullying message.
The southeast Cherokee school will open its anti-bullying campaign to the public on Tuesday, Sept. 28, with a screening of "The Fat Boy Chronicles" at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door, and proceeds benefit the school's drama program. A health expo will take place from 6 to 7 p.m.
The movie, based on the book with the same name, is inspired by a true story and follows 14-year-old Jimmy Winterpock as he begins his freshmen year of high school.
The teenager's struggles with fitting in are compounded by his weight, and he experiences isolation, abuse and ridicule. Through his journals, the audience is able to see the consequences of bullying.
River Ridge High last year invited the book's co-author, Mike Buchanan, to speak to freshmen about his experiences as a former teacher and how the book resonates with many teenagers. On Thursday, he returned to the school to talk with freshmen and sophomores.
Buchanan said he hopes the book and movie give students the courage to stand up to bullies.
"Those leaders at school set the tone of the school," he added, noting that between 85 and 90 percent of bullying takes place behind the backs of adults. "You all are the ones who have to make a difference."
School district policy defines bullying as attempts or threats to inflict injury on a person, any intentional display of force that would give the victim reason to fear or expect harm or any intentional written, verbal or physical act which a "reasonable" person would view as being intended to threaten, harass or intimidate.
Consequences for students in kindergarten through fifth grade include punishment at the discretion of the principal.
For sixth- through 12th-graders, students on a first offense will receive three days of suspension and other punishment designated by the principal. A second offense warrants five days of suspension, and a third offense will cost students nine days of assignment to an alternative school. The principal also has the discretion to implement other forms of punishment.
The principal also can recommend long-term alternative school assignment or expulsion from the school.
At Chapman Intermediate School, the Peacemakers anti-bullying effort is propelling students to stand up for bullied classmates.
Principal Dr. Pam Colvin said students are becoming more "proactive" in expressing their concerns about bullying behavior.
Peacemakers, which started three years ago, is a weekly program through which students meet in small groups and hear lessons on character education, team bonding and bully prevention.
It was started by counselor Donna Ratliff, who said the goal of the program is the help students be "empowered and stand up for themselves."
"We are beginning to see that kids recognize this and are reaching out," she said.
Dr. Colvin added the school has seen an improvement in attendance rates as a result. Attendance, along with tardiness, become "problematic" when students face harassment at school, she said.
She added the program also can help change the mindset of a student from being a "powerless victim" to someone with rights.
While in its inaugural year, the anti-bullying program at Johnston Elementary School already is having an effect, said counselor Dawn DeSantis.
"Students are standing up and saying 'This is not right,'" she said.
Through Johnston Elementary's program, students meet once a week for about 30 minutes with their homeroom teachers and talk about words relative to its character education program.
Ms. DeSantis also visits each classroom and gives lessons on bullying and what students can do when they witness the behavior. Soon, the Student Council will begin a community service program that promotes an anti-bullying message, she said.
All faculty members have been trained on the program, which is based on the Olweus Bully Prevention program, an international researched based program that incorporates the entire school community to address bullying.
Ms. DeSantis said she hopes the program will continue to resonate with all students.
"If you respect yourself and others, then that creates a safe comfortable environment so all of us can learn," she said. "That's a right, not a privilege."
Some River Ridge High students are taking that message to heart.
Cole Dery, the 15-year-old son of Wayne and Jennifer of southeast Cherokee, said he's witnessed bullying and with other students in leadership positions, he's trying to set the tone for younger students.
A member of the school's Excalibur Society (Student Government Association) and a football player, Cole said he hopes Tuesday's movie screening will help bullies see the pain their tactics can cause victims.
For Austin Maxwell, the pain the central character felt in the movie and the book is all too real.
The 15-year-old son of Wayne and Wendy Maxwell of southeast Cherokee said he often was left out of activities throughout middle school and high school.
"You kind of feel... like nobody cares," he said, adding his family was supportive of him.
Austin, now a sophomore, captain of the swim team and a member of the tennis team and the Excalibur Society, said he steps up to protect bullied students who are in the shoes he was just a few years ago.
"I don't care for bullying at all," he said.