By Karen Hall
The emphasis was on school safety at the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Task Force's spring meeting last week.
Former assistant superintendent of the Metro Nashville Public Schools Ralph Thompson spoke about bullying.
"Bullying did not just start," Thompson said. "But it has gone to new levels. It's just getting out of hand."
He went over the warning signs that can indicate to parents and teachers that a child is being bullied. These can include sudden or gradual behavior changes, loss of interest in school, and fear of going to school or school activities. If cyber-bullying is involved, the youngster may suddenly stop wanting to use their cell phone.
There are also warning signs that a student is at risk of being bullied. These include not getting along well with others, appearing "different," being small in size, or low in self-esteem.
"It's human nature to want to overpower" someone who is weaker," Thompson said. He warned teachers and administrators to be discrete when confronting a bully or those who are being bullied, since attention in front of a whole class can make the problem worse, not better.
Drawing on his experience in the metro schools, Thompson discussed what to do about bullying. Some parts of the plan are already in place in Marshall County, like having a task force, and having an anti-bullying policy that is reviewed annually. Some of the schools are already working with anti-bullying programs.
Thompson recommended providing a way for students to communicate anonymously with administration if they want to report bullying.
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