How are schools across Middle Tennessee combating cyber-bullying?

Photo: WKRN

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – One in five students ages 12 to 18 experience cyber-bullying. It’s the new kind of bullying that can be easier to carry out, but harder to find out.

Bullying isn’t just being mean, it’s an aggressive behavior asserting power or dominance, and it’s repeated. It strips innocence from students and parents.

One mother told News 2 she had no idea it was happening to her child until his life was in danger.

“School is supposed to be a safe environment and that was taken away,” she said.

The Middle Tennessee mom, who News 2 is not naming to protect her and the school, said her child, like many others, was a victim.

“I was freaked out, just devastated,” she said. “It’s shock, it’s fear, it’s all of the above.”

Nationally, hundreds of thousands of kids miss school every day because of bullying.

A recent study ranked Tennessee near the top five for states with the biggest issues. Violence and name calling still happen, but cyber-bullying is the new norm. And life on a cell phone can make parenting problematic.

“They don’t let you see what they’re texting or looking at, or anything like that,” the mother said. “You don’t know what they’re saying or what they’re doing.”

For this mother, her worst fear started with a group text. Her child was named as the target of a ”kill plan.”

She said, the “instigator had plans, pictures of weapons he was going to use.”

Four classmates talked about slitting the student’s throat.

“It was kind of like a military grade kill knife [the student had],” she explained.

Thanks to another parent noticing the text chain, the school was able to prevent the plot and avoid what could have been tragic.

“We spend a good bit of time defining what bullying is and what it’s not,” said Becky Mitchell.

Mitchell, a counseling specialist in Williamson County, said the school district focuses on bullying education and prevention, from elementary to high school.

It’s part of a state law requiring anti-bullying policies that specify consequences for violations. The curriculum includes a series of classes, and PSA’s.

“They promote stepping in, rather than being a bystander and letting the bullying occur,” Mitchell says.

The “Stepping In” campaign is just one of many happening in counties across Middle Tennessee. The videos, camps and seminars preach prevention and kindness because bullying is out there. It is a reality.

“Don’t ever think, ‘It can’t happen in your school,’ don’t be naive to believe your child wouldn’t do it,” the mother said.

It’s one parent’s reality check and message to other moms and dads to always be vigilant.

Kids who are cyber-bullied are more likely to skip school, use alcohol and drugs, have low self-esteem or health problems.

To report bullying in Williamson County call 1-855-284-0669 or email bullying@wcs.edu.

For additional information on bullying trends and prevention, visit stopbullying.gov.

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