Montgomery students can now send text to stop bullying
MONTGOMERY CO., AL (WSFA) - A new initiative in Montgomery County is geared at combating bullying in schools by having students notify authorities about the problem through texting. District Attorney Daryl Bailey made the announcement about the new program, called "Bullying Stops with Me," on Tuesday.
"We have so many of our children being bullied in our schools right now. Statistics show me that one in four kids in 4-12 grade are victims of bullying every day, just about. We are trying to do everything we can to make sure that our kids are in school, that they're learning, that they're making good grades," he said.
According to the personal-financial website WalletHub, more than 160,000 children miss school every day in the U.S. out of fear of being bullied.
The district attorney's office has been working to tackle truancy in schools for the past several years. Bailey says students who end up dropping out of high school are more likely to fall into a life of crime.
"Part of what's causing them to miss school is bullying. They don't want to go to school. They're not focusing on their studies. We have seen suicides as a result of social media bullying and in-person bullying and we want to prevent that to make it easier for children to go to school in a safe environment and learn," he added.
The agency will work with Montgomery Public Schools to place posters in schools and get the word out to students. Officials want students to know that help is available to those who witness bullying or who are being bullied.
They can text "nobully" to 444999 and they will get a reply message back asking for their information, the bully's information, and what school they attend. Those details will be sent to the Helping Montgomery Families Initiatives, who will follow up.
"We're going to talk individually with the child who is being bullied and with the bully and see if we can resolve that conflict. Hopefully, the one who is doing the bullying won't bully that person or anybody else in the future and the person who is being bullied can get back in school and learn," Bailey stated.
The DA says the texting push is innovative and allows young people to use a medium they're comfortable with to reach out about troubling situations.
"This kind of thing hasn't been done in Montgomery, so we're hoping this will start a series of things that will lead us to ending bullying in our school system," the district attorney said.
Chicketta Smith is a teacher at Sydney Lanier High School in Montgomery and serves as the assistant softball and cheer coach.
Her children also go to school there. Her daughter is in the tenth grade and her son is in the eleventh grade.
She's very familiar with the pressures students face and bullying that goes on in person and online.
"Instagram, Snapchat- there's different forms I've seen with the kids sending messages through social media," she said.
She was happy to hear about the new anti-bullying program.
"I think this would definitely give the kids another avenue to reach out and get help versus keeping it building up inside and wanting to harm themselves. This is a way for them to get it out and let someone know that they're being bullied or someone they know is being bullied," she said.
Sharonda Phelps is also a teacher at Lanier High School and her son is in eleventh grade there.
She also touted the new initiative to combat bullying.
"As a parent, it is my job foremost to keep my child safe at home. As a teacher, it's our job to keep our students safe in this building so any initiative that is going to aid us in a job that already has a lot on us, is going to be perfect,' she said.
Phelps talks to her students about what cyber bullying is and what the repercussions are.
"This is an issue affecting teens all over the country," she stated. "The children like to feel safe here. For a lot of these kids, we are their confidant and for them to know we're partnering with the District Attorney to ensure their safety here, I think not only the children will feel better but the parents as well.
"If we get it out and let the kids know that this isn't tolerated at our schools, it's a great program we should be implementing," Smith added.
MPS spokesman Tom Salter says the school system supports any program that helps keep students safe.
"This aligns perfectly with the Department of Education leadership team and Chief Education Officer Reginald Eggleston's emphasis on improving safety and discipline in our schools. We are looking forward with partnering with the district attorney's office in this effort," Salter explained.
On Thursday, a parents meeting will be held at the Lanier Auditorium from 6-7 p.m. on September 22 to discuss bullying. Dr. Darlene Turner-White, an author who addresses the "social networking epidemic," will be the guest speaker.
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