Harrison County schools attack bullying problem

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - "A girl in the sixth grade pushed me down and I sprained my hand," said ten-year-old Marlon Paz.

"I've been teased and someone pulled my hair before and it hurt," said ten-year-old Kristin Lee.

"It was a year after I got my glasses and I kept being called four eyes," said 11-year-old Alexis Davis.

Stories told by a group of Pineville Elementary students don't surprise law enforcement officials at all.  They say bullying happens on every campus.

"Every child that I've talked to this year has some experience with bullying," said Deputy Luther Leach of the Harrison County Sheriff's Department.  "Some are obviously more violent than others.  Others are just as simple as being called a name."

So this year, the Harrison County Sheriff's Department launched a new program called BRAVE.  It stands for Bullying Resistance Anti-Violence Education.  The program targets third, fourth, and fifth graders in the Harrison County School District.

"Help themselves to either avoid the bullying or fight back.  One way or the other, to stop bullying and make our schools bully-free," said Leach.

One lesson focused on how we all can view things differently.

"Even though they were thinking about different things, do you think they could still be friends?" an officer asked the students.

"Yes," they responded.

Classes are held once a week. The children learn about anger management, peer pressure, empathy, and tolerance.

"Not to call people names and not bully them and treat others the same way you want to be treated," said Marlon.

And they understand the difference between tattling and reporting a problem.

"They're more willing to express themselves this year," said Principal Jackie Graves.

Graves says the program is working.  This past week, some students tried to stop a fight near a bus.

"Other boys in the fifth grade actually intervened to separate them and to let them know 'Hey, this is not what we're supposed to do,'" said Graves.

"When a kid feels safe or less pressured, they learn better," said Leach.  "It's our job as teachers, as law enforcement officials, to make sure that they have this environment."

The Harrison County Sheriff's Department is in the process of tracking cases of bullying in schools.  The officers are also planning to host anti-bullying assemblies for seventh and 11th graders.

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