HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - If you're a parent and your child is headed back to school, the most important thing is their safety. One of the things that could impact that is bullying.
A repeated threat to harm with a purpose and harassment" is how Huntsville City Schools describe bullying.
Huntsville City Schools' Coordinator of School Counseling services is Donna Clark.
"We tell teachers to take [bullying] seriously," said Clark.
Clark has been with the district for about 20 years. She says, she's seen the issue get worse but in different ways.
"I think on some level bullying has increased for cyber bullying. Another form of bullying is relational aggression. Students purposely exclude," said Clark.
"School age children, especially middle school age, they have a very strong tribal instinct. They want to join the crowd," said Dr. Kenneth Sullivan, a psychologist at The Hearth in Huntsville.
He's spoken to both types of children: ones who are bullied and the ones who are the bullies.
"The ones that bully are insecure or overcompensating for their sense of weakness. The bigger problem is the ones that consider themselves cool. We never want the kids getting bullied - for that to be their problem. It's all of our problems when we have bullying in the schools. We want to foster a culture where the main group of the school includes and is an inclusive group regardless of differences, and hopefully even embrace differences. [Bullying] doesn't help to toughen kids up. That's in stories and movies. It leads kids to notice when someone is ganging up on them no one steps up. That's not a lesson we want kids in America to be learning," said Dr. Sullivan.
Alabama schools have strict guidelines to follow and policies in place from the state designed to prevent bullying. At many Tennessee Valley Schools, they go a step further with special anti-bullying programs. Clark says, at Huntsville City Schools, they use the "No Place for Hate" school-wide initiative.
"Schools pick three activities they can do to promote anti-bullying and also tolerance and acceptance and diversity in their school," said Clark.
Huntsville also uses a bullying prevention curriculum, anonymous alerts and a new form parents and students can fill out about bullying incidents. You can go to your child's school website and the form is on the specific school's main page called "Bullying Report Form." They also train the faculty on bullying and harassment.
"We are addressing it on every level we possibly can. Do we still have bullying incidents? Yes. I do think we have a better school climate," said Clark.
"It's something we have to constantly work on and it's not going to go away. We can knock it back. Having a culture in the school that it's popular to not bully," said Dr. Sullivan.
WAFF called every school district in Northern Alabama to find out what they do to prevent bullying in their schools. Madison City Schools, Morgan and Franklin, and Madison County Schools all have anti-bullying programs.
Madison City Schools' Public Relations Manager, John Peck, went into detail about their anti-bullying efforts. One way students can alert staff of a bullying incident is "Text to Protect." You can find the information here.
Peck sent WAFF this statement:
Morgan County Schools' Director of Secondary Education, Patrick Patterson, explained a mentoring program implemented in their district. Patterson sent WAFF this statement:
Franklin Co. Schools' District Administrator/Supervisor, Cynthia Forsythe explained their Student Harassment/Bullying Prevention training, activities, and implementation. Forsythe sent in this statement:
The Colbert County School System provided a response to its ongoing efforts of education and prevention:
WAFF is currently working to find out what the other Tennessee Valley School Districts do to prevent bullying.
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