Last month the Courier responded to readers regarding bullying locally. The article asked, Bullies and Gangs: Are They Cannon County Concerns? Many readers responded that in their opinion, a problem with bullying exists here in Cannon County, and there was suspicion by several readers that at least one local teenage may have committed suicide after being bullied.
The Courier also published an article out of the University of Tennessee indicating the problem is bigger than just Cannon County. The article noted that a Florida father stormed a school bus after hearing that his handicapped daughter was being bullied by classmates.
Other stories included a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl who hung herself after months of hallway and online tormenting from classmates; A 13-year-old Texas boy that hung himself in his family's barn after being stuck in a trash can because he was small.
In Murray County, Ga., teenager Tyler Long killed himself after bullying at school and on the school bus, according to a federal lawsuit filed by his parents.
These stories, unfortunately, are just the tip of the iceberg. U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics say one in three children in grades 6-10 are either bullies or the victims of bullying.
Two students' complaints about bullying at middle schools in Chattanooga got the superintendent's attention. One eighth-grader skipped school one day so he wouldn't get kicked or hit. He said he has been called names and had to submit to threatening demands to provide a cell phone for another student.
Vanderbilt University school bullying researcher Maury Nation says teasing has become "more sinister" and some kids are being terrorized.
"The real focus in the last few years is on kids who are chronically victimized, which is not what most of us grew up thinking bullying was," said Nation, a clinical psychologist and associate professor of human and organizational development. "It's going to be hard to get rid of (all) types of bullying or harassment that goes on in the context of schools, because there's such a continuum of behavior from what is fair play or picking on friends, to things that become more problematic."
"One of the things we've found in our research is that being labeled a victim is never something that kids really seek out," he said.
"Students are more willing to identify themselves as a bully rather than a victim," Nation said. "It's just not in our culture, particularly for young people, to say that they're the ones at the bottom of the totem pole."
To address the issue here, local law enforcement officers are planning a program to help children and parents to deal with bullying. Sheriff Darrell Young has offered his assistance and Constable Jim Gibbs, and Sheriff’s Detective “JD” Davis have already discussed offering a Prevention Education & Intervention Workshop that would address bullying locally and the threat of gangs.
The workshop is planned for December 14th at 6 p.m. in the Courthouse. Topics will include: “How to Talk with Educators”; “Tips for Parents of Bullied Children” and most importantly “How to Complete a Harassment Notice” to place the bully and both the parents and the school district on legal notice that bullying is occurring and needs to stop.
The first meeting will be directed toward helping parents protect their children and organizing a local resistance to bullying. Teachers and school administrators are also welcome to attend.