Ocean Springs schools launch campaign against bullies

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - No parent ever wants to hear that his or her child has been bullied. But it's a problem that keeps making headlines. This year, the Ocean Springs School District is launching an anti-bullying campaign. On Thursday, counselors heard from people who are on the front lines in the battle against bullies.

Harrison County Deputy Frank Baskett is passionate about fighting bullies. He is the director of B.R.A.V.E., a program he helped develop for Harrison County schools back in 2008. B.R.A.V.E. stands for "Bullying Resistance Anti-Violence Education."

"When we started, simple assaults were in double digits. It was in the 30s, 35-36 a year.  In 2010, that has dropped down to ten at the same school," said Baskett.

Baskett explained the successes of the program with Ocean Springs counselors, administrators, and law enforcement officers. The workshop touched-on all sorts of bullying topics, from sexting to human trafficking.

"Human trafficking many times goes along with the sexting, because that breaks down your barriers, taking your clothes off and being seen. And bullying because if you're bullied, you're very easily manipulated," said Susie Harvill, Founder of Advocates for Freedom.

The lessons learned will help the Ocean Springs School District develop its campaign called "ABC-123".  ABC stands for "Anti-Bullying Campaign" and 123 encourages students to stop, count to three, and think before they act.

"I'm a parent also and I'm learning some things today that I didn't know. So as an educator and a parent, I just want to make sure everyone has all means of education they can so they can help their child be safe and secure in school and their life," said counselor Julie Milanese.

Broadcast Journalism students and Ambassador Mentors at the high school are also working on a video that includes songs, skits, and personal interviews at every school.

"We have some children describing in their own words what bullying means to them, which really hits your heart, because a lot of the words they have negative connotations. It's really heartwarming to see how the children react to these questions we ask them," said Ocean Springs High Sophomore Kylie Tuttle.

"I personally have seen things. I've been through it. I want all the younger kids to learn from it and hope they get a good experience from the video," said Ocean Springs High Sophomore Madison Zuber.

The goal is to open everyone's eyes about bullying and show that it takes the entire community to keep bullies off campus.

"We want to make sure we're catching kindergarten through 12th grade, anybody who might be a part of it who might be thinking about it. We want to make sure that we prevent it and we help them through the process," said Milanese.

The school district will also host a meeting just for parents to explain the anti-bullying campaign. Experts will also show them how to monitor their child's cell phone and how to find and delete messages.

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