Experts say a community approach is needed to tackle bullying

Experts say a community approach is needed to tackle bullying

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"I was upset all the time. I didn't want to go to school and personally I do love to learn," said Stephanie Dean, who was bullied in middle school. "I was upset all the time. I didn't want to go to school and personally I do love to learn," said Stephanie Dean, who was bullied in middle school.
"We have to prevent it. Just having policies and practices dealing with bullying as it occurs is not efficient," said UT professor Dr. Dupper. "We have to prevent it. Just having policies and practices dealing with bullying as it occurs is not efficient," said UT professor Dr. Dupper.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

WASHBURN (WATE) - Bullying, experts say, is happening more often and sometimes the bullying can be so severe it leads to violence and sometimes suicide.

Recently two cases have brought attention to the issue of bullying.

In October, a 15-year-old female student in Washburn was sent to the hospital after being injured in a fight.

Three juvenile girls were arrested for assault. Friends and family of the hospitalized girl said she was a victim of bullying.

In Lenoir City, 15-year-old Colt Jones recently took his own life. Friends and family said bullying lead to his death.

Now, experts say it's not just the school's responsibility to stop bullying, the community has to step up.

Stephanie Dean, 18, is no stranger to being picked on. As an eighth grader, she says she was bullied at school.

"They would ask me to say words and they would try to mimic me and laugh at me," said Dean.

The verbal teasing soon happened every day, turning into bullying, and eventually escalating into physical violence.

"She started throwing my pocketbook around and came over and shoved me down and started in on me. She kicked me pretty hard in the stomach and it left a small bruise on my stomach," said Dean

The bullying impacted her well being.

"I was upset all the time. I didn't want to go to school and personally I do love to learn," said Dean.

Dean says she reported the bullying to school officials, but nothing ever happened.

"Even asking for help from teachers at the school, no one did anything. I didn't feel safe so I moved to a different school," said Dean.

When a 15-year-old female student was beaten up outside of Washburn School in October, friends and family joined together to take a stand against bullying.

Grainger County School officials will not comment saying the investigation is ongoing.

The district does have an anti-bullying policy, but bullying expert and University of Tennessee professor Dr. David Dupper says dealing with situations after they happen will not solve the problem.

"We have to prevent it. Just having policies and practices dealing with bullying as it occurs is not efficient," said Dr. Dupper.

Dupper says bullying is not just teasing or peer conflict, it's a daily form of peer child abuse where the bully doesn't get caught and the victim can't defend themselves.

He says there is physical, verbal and cyber bullying and school officials need to step in to help prevent it.

"Having classroom meetings and having schoolwide meetings to talk about bullying, what it is, how it's different from other forms of peer conflict," said Dr. Dupper. "These are the steps you need to take to stop it."

Dupper says there needs to be roleplaying where all students learn how to handle and stop bullying.

"Once we have the dynamic where witnesses routinely intervene, bystanders routinely take action and confront the bully. That is going to be one of the most powerful ways going forward," said Dr. Dupper.

Dean wants to remind students if they are getting bullied to seek help.

Go to a parent, school counselor or school resource officer and to not give up hope.

"Things get better. They do get better, even if you think they won't they will," said Dean.

Dean is planning on joining the Navy. She says even though being bullied was hard, she made it through.

She just hopes in the future other students, parents and school officials take a strong stand against bullying.

Dr. Dupper says to really make a difference in bullying the community needs to get involved.

He says the schools, businesses, churches and local media need to come together to take a social marketing approach to bullying.

He says everyone has to understand that bullying is not acceptable and bullies will no longer have the power.

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