Bullying Prevention

Dresden Schools Take On Bullying Prevention
Posted on 10/09/2019
This is the image for the news article titled Dresden Schools Take On Bullying PreventionAccording to the group that first declared October as Bullying Prevention month, students have a unique power to prevent bullying. More than half of bullying situations (57 percent) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied.

At Dresden High School, students are ready to intervene.

Last Monday, at the instigation of Family Career and Community Leaders of America members Sarah Baggett, Lana Taylor, and Audrey McKinney, the school launched a week of daily activities to renew the focus on the problem and provide for informed interventions. More than half the student body showed up for a photo of the sea of blue shirts worn to acknowledge the launch of the anti-bullying emphasis. FCCLA sponsor Pat Phillips said the turnout and enthusiasm gave her “chill bumps.”

When asked why the young women felt the emphasis was important, each said she knew someone who has been bullied either physically or verbally.

organizers"I want people to realize that it is still a big deal," said Taylor. McKinney agreed, "It's not just on the movies. Bullying is still a problem.”

Spreading rumors that are known to be untrue is one of the biggest means of bullying according to Baggett who said, "I just want people to stand up to those they see hurting others."

PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center declared October Bullying Prevention Month in 2006. Thirteen years later middle school-ers who were born in the same year are entering Dresden Middle School and still facing the issue.
According to the Center for Disease Control, students who are bullied are more likely to experience low self-esteem and isolation, perform poorly in school, have few friends in school, have a negative view of school, experience physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or problems sleeping, and to experience mental health issues such as depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety.

DMS counselor Jamie Rickman, who addressed absenteeism with a series of social media posts specifically targeted to help parents understand the underlying causes why some children avoid school, affirmed that bullying and absenteeism are often linked.

“Bullying is a complex issue yet often parents want a simple solution,” said Rickman who has been a part of the education field for 22 years and a counselor for 15.

She agrees that bullying does occur, noting examples like name calling and threats, one-time-friends and now enemies posting things they know to be untrue on Snapchat, even going so far as creating fake accounts to do so and misusing the power of the hierarchy of popularity.

“If the person on top in popularity is empathetic they rule with kindness,” she observed. “But if that person thinks of themselves as better than others, they rule with meanness and social ostracizing.”

When an incident of bullying is observed or reported, Rickman says the first step is to determine if the person who is reporting feels safe. If the answer is unsafe, then the matter is reported to administration who investigates and responds accordingly.

“Administrators are focused on the incident not happening again and hone in on the bully,” she said. “Counselors,” noted Rickman, “can then turn their attention on the bullied and the bystanders.”

Bullying prevention resources point out that bullying affects witnesses as well as targets, and that witnesses are more likely to use tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs; have increased mental health problems; and miss or skip school.
Hence the counselors’ need to look to those affected while the administration determines interventions to use with the bully.

Sometimes the response is punishment and other times it may be empathy training. Empathy training is among the activities planned for October at DMS.

Rickman said that often the child could feel safe but is unhappy about ways classmates are treating them. If that student wants administration to investigate, the incident is reported immediately; however, sometimes students want to look for ways to resolve situations for themselves.

As a counselor, Rickman acknowledges, “I’m not here about discovering and punishing the bully, I’m here for the person reporting. If they don’t feel unsafe, then I let them have input for how they want to handle it.”

Asking what happened and what possible other responses could have been used are among the items she must address.

“Most of the time I can tell if it is true bullying or someone just having a bad day and they called someone a bad name,” she concluded. “When possible and appropriate, I try to empower students to not get an adult involved because at some point you will no longer have that option. You need the skills to handle uncomfortable situations.”

Dresden High School planned a game, a poster contest, a pledge day and a linked chain representing connections among the study body to underscore bullying prevention. Dresden Middle will be completing a school safety map with each student anonymously marking a map of the school and noting places where they feel unsafe. Rickman will compile the results and share with faculty. Dresden Elementary has anti-bullying as part of their guidance curriculum that students receive each week.

Rickman serves as the sponsor for the Weakley County Youth Coalition and they helped plan not only anti-bullying activities but also actions for the week of October 21-25 which is deemed Red Ribbon Week to turn the spotlight on combating drugs and alcohol abuse. Dresden Elementary and Dresden High observe Red Ribbon Week as well.