Bullies And Gangs: Are They Cannon County Concerns?

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Concern has been raised this week by family, friends and citizens of Cannon County, speculating the death of a Cannon County youth may in some way be related to bullying and youth violence.

Youth bullying has also been a national news topic in recent weeks, associated with the suicides of gay teens.

This past April, Cannon County First District Constable Jim Gibbs appeared before the Cannon County School Board to propose an agreement between the school district and the constable’s office to bring violence resistance education and training to Cannon County elementary schools.

The program, Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) is sponsored by the Department of Justice and calls upon experienced law enforcement officers with classroom teaching experience to teach children how to respond to threatening situations, and how to resist risky behaviors and relationships such as gang involvement.

Gibbs explained that G.R.E.A.T. is an educational process starting at a young age that not only teaches positive behavior in children, but creates a trust in the law enforcement officer in uniform.

The school board decided at the time not to take Gibbs up on his offer.

The Cannon Courier contacted Constable Gibbs to obtain his perspective on possible bullying and gang activities in Cannon County. Questions and his answers follow:

 Do you think bullying, possibly related to gang activity, could be associated with Brian Kite's death?

 Actually I have no idea. I have read online comments suggesting that he was a victim of bullying. At this very moment, I'm not sure anyone knows what or who contributed to the unfortunate loss of Brian's young life. I trust both Sheriff Young, and Dr. Reuhland to investigate his death and let the community know the results of their investigation as quickly as possible.

Is bullying one of the tactics or trademarks of gang members?

Bullying can be gang related as kids will join gangs for protection from bullies. Gangs will often use bullying as an intimating means to recruit members, but to also define and defend their territory. Gang related graffiti is usually an intimating message. Graffiti is the gang message board which also usually defines the gang’s territory and is used to disrespect rival gangs. --- Gang related or not, bullying in itself, especially in a small community as Cannon County can be devastating to the young victims that just have no place to turn and get help.

Have you noticed a recent increase is gang-related activity in Cannon County?

There have been recent reports of graffiti in Cannon County. Generally, gang graffiti is going to be from a gang trying to claim territory, It's purpose is to warn everybody to stay out. Not all graffiti is gang related, but it needs to documented, record and analyzed by law enforcement.

The TBI has listed at least one gang as being in Cannon County, the Vice Lords which is an older gang that originated in the Chicago area that is typically African-American. However, It is important to think outside the stereotype gang member image. Don't be lulled into thinking all gang members are black or Hispanic. Outlaw motorcycle gangs are gangs, neo-Nazis, religious fanatic groups and the KKK are all also gangs that recruit members.

Not long ago, a Cannon County sheriff's investigator warned the Cannon County Commissioners of gang related issues in the county. At the time, his focus was on gangs from other areas victimizing local residents.

It's no secret that gang activity exists in Murfreesboro and Rutherford County, McMinnville and Warren County, Manchester and Coffee County

It is estimate that 400 to 500 youth in Rutherford County are connected to gangs, a sizable number in a growing community of that size.

Metro Police have identified 5,000 gang members in Davidson County.

Nearly 800,000 gang members and 27,000 gangs operate across the 50 states, a Justice Department survey shows. Some estimates have the figure at 2 million gang members.

But more importantly, those are numbers that will continue to grow if a more comprehensive approach is not embraced to not only deter our young people from joining gangs through stiff punishment of offenders, but to also provide adequate opportunities for at-risk youth to choose a different path that leads to becoming productive members of society.

What are some of the illegal activities gangs generally engage in?

When a gang comes in, generally crime goes up. That's why when anybody sees graffiti they should alert law enforcement. Properly trained, law enforcement can interpret the graffiti and identify any new gang activity. Illegal activity can include drug trafficking, burglary, auto and farm machinery theft, dealing in stolen guns and illegal weapons. Actually, anything that will produce income even prostitution can be found as a gang activity. Most gangs are just illegal business operations being run by some real nasty people.

Do you think school officials are doing enough to protect students from bullying and gang violence?

I do not.

The School board claims they are using a PBS or PBIS program (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Support). But, each school has to established its own methods and rewards for positive behavior. Furthermore, classroom behavior seems to be the focus of the program. While negative behavior is addressed, I don't see bullying directly addressed and nothing related to avoiding gang activity.

MTEC sponsored a bullying program at Short Mountain Elementary which was entertaining and funny for the kids. I question the long term value and it did not address gangs.

Last spring, The School Board rejected a FREE offer to bring a nationally recognized program called Gang Resistance Education And Training (G.R.E.A.T.) to Cannon County. The program is a school-based, law enforcement officer-instructed classroom curriculum. The program's primary objective is prevention and is intended as an immunization against delinquency, youth violence, and gang membership. G.R.E.A.T. lessons focus on providing life skills to students to help them avoid delinquent behavior and violence to solve problems. The program also addresses bullying.

What more should local law enforcement and school officials do the address the problem of bullying and gangs?

Follow the lead of our neighbors. Just last week the Murfreesboro Police announced they are going to implement the same program reject by the Cannon County School Board.

Assistant Police Chief Roy Fields reported they're partnering with the Community Anti-drug Coalition of Rutherford County (CADCOR) to implement the G.R.E.A.T. program or Gang Resistance Education and Training in schools in Murfreesboro.

Murfreesboro Police Major Clyde Adkisson says the program will bring more awareness to young people about gangs and how they're impacting our community. Cannon County had an opportunity to be ahead of the curve with this same program, and the school board failed the community.

Fields and Adkisson say this is the start of the plan and they hope future grants will enable them to expand the program to other grades and schools. The grant has been accepted and they hope to begin the program during this semester.

What can the community and parents do to protect themselves and children from bullies and gangs?

Love and respect your children. In many cases gangs are an attractive alternative to families. The gang becomes their family. Don't let it happen, and don't assume that it is going to happen elsewhere. Learn what gangs are really about and educate and defend your children from the enticements of gangs.

What can parents and school officials do to keep children from becoming associated with gangs?

Gangs are businesses built around a formidable drug economy. They realize that youths are a valuable resource, and they are serving an unmet economic need in low-income communities. Businesses, schools, nonprofit organizations and government should come together to create a viable economic strategy to employ youths, meet financial need and realize their potential as contributors to our economy.

In addition to economic underinvestment, we have underinvested emotionally in many of our youths. They lack the communities and relationships that bring value and attachment to life. In our program, we watch youths transform as they receive attention, shape their identity and voice, find community and realize a pathway toward a desirable future. We need to prioritize fostering educational and youth communities that serve social-emotional needs and engage each young person as an individual with remarkable potential.

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Members Opinions:
October 20, 2010 at 7:36pm
What can we do as parents and grandparents to let the school board know we want this in our schools? We need this so bad right now! We have lost two children in the past month. Whether bullying contributed to their death..we don't know. But in both cases we have heard that there was bullying in their lives. This needs to stop!
October 20, 2010 at 7:59pm
We need to stand together and voice our desires and rights. The problem is fear. Parents are afraid to speak their minds. I think for several reasons. Concerns have gone unanswered for so long. I know that in the last year I have written several articles with an overwhelming response asking for help and wanting the stories out. I have gone to the powers that be several times and offered my services to speak out on bullying and have relayed the stories. I am always met with a pat on the hand and a resounding-"We don't need that sort of thing here." We as parents have rights and their are sources out there to help in our needs. At this time I am in the process of starting a Bullying support group. I have tried other means and can not seem to get any response- thus, I will try this route. Those drawing the checks are in denial and are under the impression that we no longer have the right to speak for our children's rights in a school system. As I have said before, it is vital that we speak out and demand answers and actions. This can not be swept under the rug. If those in active positions can not meet the requirements then it is time for them to relinquish the reins and let someone step in who can find a way to solve these issues. I have also been meet with- money is a large issue for any program-(I have offered my services and information for free). Some things do not hold a price and we have now paid the highest price for our most precious gifts. We cannot ever forget that as we go forward to implement change. If anyone needs any information or would like to join this support group please email me and I will get you the proper information that you need. Another thing I have asked for is a forum and a concern group. However, I believe it is going to have to start with parents meeting first and then perhaps the school board and director will show up to a meeting to listen. I will do whatever it takes to keep this a top priority but parents we need each other to make this change happen. Together we can be the change we want to make in our county!
October 21, 2010 at 3:01am
This article plainly tells me that neither Mr. Halpern nor Mr. Gibbs were ever the victims of a bully. There are quite often times when NOTHING you can do will deter them. Although in theory the idea is good, it isn't always so cut and dry as to how the victim reacts. More times then not, the bullies actually thrive on fear or avoidance. It is not the responsibility of the victim to solve this problem. It is the responsibility of the school as the authority figures during school hours and the police if it goes past that to take care of the offending persons. And as for if the two deaths being related to bullies, well yes they were. It was very plain in reports that Brian was being followed and tormented; I am not however basing it completely on that. I know one of the children that were friends with him and had spoke to him that last day. He was well aware that someone was out there trying to get at him. The other student was one of the same group of friends and for whatever reasoning was driven to taking her own life. I have HEARD with my own ears some threatening phone calls made to friends of hers that very day.
We are not talking about the same types of "gangs" that would exist in bigger cities, we are talking about bullies that have always existed in school systems. They are simply becoming bolder as they realize that there is nothing in place to stop them and there are no consequences. When you have teenagers apparently without a conscience and no consequences, it is a bad mix. When bullying goes beyond name calling and begins costing lives, it has gone way too far. I repeat, these are NOT gangs, they are bullying teenagers who get a thrill out of dominating other students and thrive on the fear that is observed.
October 21, 2010 at 7:40am
Most bullies are nothing without there little bully friends and when you get them together they become a GANG.

The teachers and system cant and wont do anything because of their fear of the legal consequences.

It is our responsibility to embed morals in our children in our homes, It is not the responsibility of our education system to RAISE our children but we have made it so.
October 21, 2010 at 8:36am
My child was bullied in Cannon County High School, and I went to the School, School Board and everyone turned their cheek. We as parents, teachers, mentors, governors need to stand together to stop this. Everyone turned their back on my child, she couldn't handle it, and she even broke out with Shingles (the doctor was applauded that a 17 year old child would have that much stress). Still NO ONE DID ANYTHING.
The school board decided to put her in a GED school to solve the problem instead of handling the problem to get her out of the High School. The bully continued to bully and still to this day NO ONE DOES ANYTHING ABOUT IT... Even the parents of the bully, didn't want to hear it "NOT THEIR CHILD"...

My job when becoming a mother was to protect my child, I can not believe people just turn their backs when someone is bulling… Thank god my child didn’t kill her self, overdose etc… PLEASE LET START NOW TO STOP BULLING IN OUR COMMUNITIY… IT STARTS WITH YOU!!!!!! TAKE A STAND!
October 21, 2010 at 8:44am
the school parents and the law need to get togther and do something cause we are small town and have lost too many kids in the last few years that if some of them had somewhere or someone to come to they may have got help this has gone on to long if we dont do something soon it may get relly bad just stop and think about the school shootings that has happen because of bulling people never think things like can happen in your town but it can and there are signs of bullin every where in this town that kite boy girlfriend is being bullied right now right after she lost her boyfriend they think this happen to him because of bulling what you think she feels like and now people are on her we have to stop and help the kids not just sit back and think the kids are going to fix it themself
October 21, 2010 at 9:24am
Hi DebbieJen – Your conclusion that neither Mr. Halpern or myself have never been victims of bullying is not correct. I was bullied as a child and frankly I can think of several incidents in recent years that were clearly acts of bullying directed toward me or my family – right here in Cannon County. ---- So, I can speak both as a victim and as an experienced law enforcement officer and public educator. The article also speaks of the same gangs found in bigger cities --- are they widespread in Cannon County. -- NO --- Are they a threat to Cannon County residents? -- YES -- Obviously bullying is what is on everyone’s minds right now, and that is fine --- let’s address one issue at a time (bullying), but not turn a blind eye toward the gang issue because it is there and it is growing. WHAT CAN BE DONE?? Because of my schedule I can’t do much until the first week of November ---- If there is an interest, I am willing to take the lead to bring together experts and parents to discuss what can be done locally about bullying. I would suggest that when we meet, that we meet at least twice – once in the day and once in the evening so any parent could attend regardless of their working schedule. --- Anybody interested in helping or attending can email me at jimgibbs@cannoncounty.net Please use the subject “Bullying” as I do get a lot of emails.

Jim Gibbs, Cannon County Constable
October 21, 2010 at 10:24am
Here is an idea. Let's start letting our teachers and principles discipline the children that don't know how to behave because their mommy and daddy have always taken the position that it is not their little Johnny's fault, it must be someone else making them act badly. Or make the mom or dad take off from work to come pick up their disruptive child.
I am also reminded how these problems used to be handled by the children themselves. If you had someone that was a bully you had someone else teach them that they weren't nearly as bad as they thought they were. Now before you get all PC on me think back to when things were settled on the play ground and no one got sent home for taking care of a bully.
October 21, 2010 at 11:44am
I sorta agree with "bullpen". I was bullied all through school and I grew up in Cannon County. It got alot worse in high school, although I never tried to defend myself. My parents always told me to defend myself, but the school authorities always said to just walk away and tell someone. That made it even worse as I was then targetted as the "sissy" or "tattletale" and it made for more and more bullying. Around my second year of high school, I started standing my ground and letting them know I wasnt scared of them, then they backed off. Some even attempting to befriend me although I wanted nothing to do with them. Although, I do understand that, in some situations, it isnt quite that easy. As in mental disorders, or physical disabilities, those children should have someone there to stick up for them when needed. Its really sad that Cannon County has come to this in just the last 10 years or so. Most important of all, parents should ALWAYS stay involved in their childs life. Dont judge them or talk down at them about poor decisions. Instead, let them know that they can speak to you about anything, even if it will upset you to hear it, they need someone to turn to even in the worst situations. Someone they know will understand.
October 22, 2010 at 7:10am
"AMEN!!!!" bullpen. my mom and dad did't call it child abuse when having to whip my butt. they called it discipline.
October 22, 2010 at 9:30am
Good God when are we going to get the real picture.
Seems as though the Government messes everything up they touch and control.

In case we haven't noticed the Public education system has failed thanks to Political Correctness It can't possibly succeed. Law suites for discipline?

I wouldn't have my kids in public schools and never will. I would home school them first. Or like my parents did, I will hire tutors as well if private schools where scarce.

If you want to indulge in the privilege of procreation isn't the outcome your responsibility? Or is it the Government.

Close down the losers called public schools and be a responsible parent and educate your own kids through competitive private schools or home tutoring. Competition creates quality through innovation and cost.

The private school that best deals with bullying and GANGS!! and keep the cost down are going to GET YOUR BUSINESS. And you can FIRE them if they don't.

Use your local churches for social networking
if your worried about reclusiveness.

It's your kids, YOU educate them and stop asking the Government to do that job.
They ruin and bankrupt everything they touch.

As for the Gang problems outside the public schools? Well All the potential victims are in private schools and home with their parents I don't think the Gangs can survive without customers. And what few do survive?,support your local police dept. and stop rejecting their suggestions for a solution and they will be allowed to discipline these street thugs , when I was 12 years old a cop would haul me into his cruiser and paddle the %$# out of my rump, so from now on, I used my "WHOLE" hand when I waved to him. If my father found out I was really dead.
I sport a bumper sticker on my car that says
PC with a red circle around it and a LINE drawn through it.
October 23, 2010 at 8:17am
The blame always belongs to someone else!!! GET REAL

Two "grown-ups" spent weeks fighting each other over a petty squabble between their high school children till one of them shot the other in the back and got 1 year in COUNTY jail for the murder. What did WE teach that group of SPECTATOR CHILDREN that day?

October 23, 2010 at 11:00am
Well said Rachel! We were thinking the same thing!
October 24, 2010 at 7:57pm
I agree with Rachel, what happened that day no matter what the story was, that man should have been made an example of. What did we teach those children that day? Shame on the system.
October 24, 2010 at 11:25pm
i agree the school system is not doing enough to protect the ones being bullied i have a child at cchs and in the space of 5 weeks there were 3 instances one which had my child at the ER.....for now things seem to have quietened down and hopefully no more will occur
October 26, 2010 at 9:07am
If you would take the parents to court everytime you have to take your child for medical treatment and make them foot the bill. I promise you it would be some action on the parents part when it gets into their billfold and time missed from work. I know I did it and if I had my time to go over I would have added my time off from work and pain my child had. Yes CCHS is not watching out for our kids, there is fighting over there everyday. The hour lunch is just a recipe for trouble. All students on lunch at one time bad move on who ever come up with that. Keep up with what is going on with your kids ask questions and keep alert of the things going on at school. It's the kids you would not think would bully others but they do .
October 26, 2010 at 5:49pm
I know of an instance where the principal did nothing to someone that was bullying a child. The principal said,"I've know this kid and he is a good boy". Maybe when adults are around,but maybe not if they are not around.Sounds to me like the school board and principals are kinda like an ostrich with it's head in the sand. Well this is good ole Cannon County and we don't want to change things because this is the way daddy and his daddy did things.All bullies are not in highschool. Some are the wannabee bad boys that are continually harrassing anyone that lets them.The local law enforcement knows them as do the judges.I wonder if they had anything to do with these acts? All bullies are not in grammar school or high school.Some are the punks roaming the streets of Woodbury selling drugs and stealing what ain't locked up or tied down.
October 31, 2010 at 8:15pm
I have read all of yall's opinion,so u people wait until a child is killed in cannon county and now yall want do something about this bullying situation,It dosen't all come from bullying or gangs there are mean kids,children grown ups everywhere.you call the law so they do nothing but probation if that,If the laws were stiffer and the parents cared about where their were children were sending them to a friends house to get them out of their hair,buying cellphones,games etc.so now the parents are happy cause they are out of their hair.What about showing your children they are loved by spending time with them making them do chores{is that a crime}instead of all the material things they want and yall wonder why theres bullying going on,Some parents can't afford maybe what their next door neighbors children have,Do away with the cellphones taking ipods etc to school.I could go on and on why but just wasteing my time.I think all schools should have uniforms for all children.Then one child can't say my jeans are 50.00 and yours is 10.00 and etc.I was raised in the sixties and as a child it wasn't like that,In high school it was beginning to start when i left.That was 35yrs ago and i have children that grew up in this town and i talked to plenty of children over the yrs and if you people would actually talked to children even if they are not yours you will find out alot of things from those kids and maybe one day you people could save another kids life.I know someone in cannon county knows something about the kite boys life and who killed him.The kids are scared to talk.Like i said love your children show them you care instead of brushing them off,you will get more answers that way .Trust me! a concerned citizen of cannon county.borned and raised here and proud of it.
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