Spotlight on bullying: What local school districts are doing to combat the problem

Punch
FILE

One out of every five students reports being bullied, according to the National Bullying Prevention Center.

In this half-way point in the school year, we checked with school districts across our area to see how they are tackling this sensitive issue, and how parents can get help.

Whoever implied sticks and stones were more hurtful than words, probably never experienced the verbal blows 13-year-old Abby Hammett has suffered in school.

“People have told me that I don’t need to be alive, and that I’m making this world worse, and tell me that I make so many mistakes and that I should just give up, but I haven’t gave up,” she said.

Her parents are disheartened that the bullying is continuing, despite talking with her Spartanburg area middle school.

“I feel hopeless because I’m not always going to be around to make her feel secure,” said her mom, Tammy Hammett.

Now the 7th grader is challenging schools to be more proactive in combating unkindness.

We checked in with her district, and others across the area to see what they are doing about the issue.

Many districts follow the Olweus program, aimed at educating teachers and students to not just spot bullying, but more importantly, speak up.

“The days of ‘don’t be a tattle tale,’ you know, those days are over. We want the students to tell both their parents at home and also an adult here at school,” said Dr. Amy Kitts, the Owleus program director for Spartanburg District 6.

The program not only encourages constant dialogue about bullying but also asks other students to be positive bystanders and speak up if they notice someone’s being mistreated.

The frustration for Adam Hammett, and other parents is that speaking up, doesn’t always stop the bullying.

“I just want them to have a little bit stricter punishment,” he said.

Dr. Kitts says if families feel they’ve hit a roadblock with their school, district leaders are also there to help.

“We’re on the same team,” she said.

To Abby Hammet, it may not always feel that way, but she’s focusing on what she does have.

“I have parents who love me, I have friends who care,” she said.

And she’s hoping if her words don’t stop bullies, at least they’ll let other victims know, they’re not alone.