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Mississippi Schools Launch New Anti-Bullying Effort

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 18 Apr 2011 02:13pm | comments
Ariel Terrel (left) reads from a script while other actors re-enact bullying.

According to the Department of Justice, one out of four kids will be bullied every month. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports on how Mississippi school leaders are learning about bullying and what they are doing to stop it.

Administrators and teachers from most of Mississippi 152 school districts are flocking to a hotel in Ridgeland for a two day anti-bullying conference.

Dr. Allen Beane created the bully-free school program after seeing his son's depression and isolation following years of bullying.

"He met some bad people. They dealt with drugs. And he decided one night to take meth to fly away from his hurt and his pain and he took too much and it killed him," Beane said.

Beane says bullying is aggressive, repeated, intentional harm and kids are move vulnerable than ever bullying.

"We still have the one, two or three aggressive bullies like many of us remember from the days we were in school. But now it is more intense more prevalent because of technology, cyber bullying but also because we have a lot of good kids who haven't been taught empathy," Beane said.

Beane says keys to stopping bullying include properly defining it, respecting the pain of bullying victims, and not ignoring the bullies.

"We show schools how to add structure to times that are unstructured, so kids aren't just free to do what they want to do. And we have strategies for helping victims. Helping them learn how to help themselves. We have strategies for helping bullies change," Beane said.

18-year old Ariel Terrell performed an anti-bullying skit with a group of teenagers from the Mississippi School of the arts for the adults at the conference.

Terrell says she has been both bullied and a bully.

"You actually have to step back outside of the situation and looking and see exactly what you are going to do and say next and understand that that person has feelings also and you wouldn't want them to say certain things to you," Terrell said.

The adults work in groups discussing bullying in their schools and crafting new plans to help the kids.

David Barrow with Greenville Public Schools says bullying has been tough to combat and can quickly spill outside of the classroom.

"We have been having a lot of things about Facebook, where the young ladies are putting inappropriate comments and they are blaming each other. So you have to figure out who is doing what and how to address it before it becomes a major problem," Barrow said.

The superintendent of the Mississippi School for the Blind Dr. Rosie Pridgen says bullying happens even in her unique school.

"We will be training our students. We will be retraining staff. We will be training families. So it will be a concerted effort for all of our school community," Pridgen said.

The department of education keeps track of the reports of bullying around the state each year. They will consider the program a success if there is a decrease in the amount of bullying being reported by Mississippi school kids.

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Ariel Terrel (left) reads from a script while other actors re-enact bullying.


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