Anti-bullying campaign launched

SUMTER COUNTY, Ala. (WTOK) - It has been almost a week since a 6th grader in north Mississippi committed suicide. According to the Clarion Ledger, that student was a victim of bullying.

This is a widespread problem. The National Education Association has found that more than 160,000 children miss school every day because they are afraid of being bullied. One woman in west Alabama is setting out to change this here at home, and abroad.

"If they want to report bullying, they would click on the app," said Debra Clark. She's the founder of the "Time To Stop Bullying Campaign."

"They can report the problem anonymously, or they can call and report it. They can call through the app," said Clark.

The app is part of the campaign, which she launched less than a month ago on Valentine's Day.

Our Newscenter 11 crew caught up with Mrs. Clark Monday sharing information about the new app as part of the Focus Group School and Community Health Fair that was held at Livingston Junior High. The anti-bullying campaign is teaming up with The Focus Program for teens, which is supported by the Alabama State Department of Education.

"As part of the campaign we give away small cards that the students can keep in their pocket," said Clark, "and if they witness another student being bullied, they can slip them this card and say, 'Call this number on this card or download this app.'"

Once the report is made, it is immediately shared with the teen's school or nearby law enforcement agency if needed.

"The first step is to identify the student," said Livingston Junior High Principal Tramene Maye. "Bring the student to see exactly what's going on, and the next step is to bring in all of the students involved, and handle the situation."

To also address the issue of bullying, a "Peer Helper" group was organized earlier this year at Sumter Central High School. This is a group of student leaders, who are being trained to help, who other students can contact anonymously about their problem.

"If it gets serious we'll go to authorities, and talk to an adult about the situation," said SCHS Junior, Nakira Walker.

So far, Nakira and other members of the group say the results have been good.

"The students said the problem didn't really affect them afterward. So, I guess it's working," said SCHS Senior Xavier Turner.

As for the "Time to Stop Bullying Campaign," there are currently fifteen school districts enrolled in the free effort; most are in Alabama and one East Mississippi school is involved. Some churches and businesses are also participating. For more information log on to timetostopbullying.org.

According to a national research group, both of the twin states rank in or near the top ten states for bullying. WalletHub ranks Alabama 8th on that list, and Mississippi 11th.