(Germantown, TN) Unfortunately, there are too many instances of young people falling victim to bullying.
National statistics show more than 160,000 teenagers skip school everyday because of bullying.
And bullying has been linked to more than 1,500 school shootings.
Getting a handle on bullying is why Germantown Middle School has been hosting an event called “Challenge Days.”
The program takes a unique approach to a very serious problem.
“Welcome…welcome to Challenge Day.”
Wednesday, it looked like a pep rally at Germantown Middle School, and in a way it was for seventh and eighth graders.
They filled the gym for an important presentation from an organization called “Challenge Day.”
The California-based non-profit group is changing attitudes of boys and girls on bullying with a message of inclusion and acceptance.
“We truly believe every single person in here is equal and deserves the highest level of respect,” said Challenge Day staff member Michelle Arias.
There’s nothing routine about the three-day, six-hour seminar, which keeps students and adult volunteers very active and focused.
The event addressed an issue affecting more than 3 million students a year and growing, thanks to social media.
“A lot of students feel really brave behind their computers, when they’re home and it’s anonymous and they can say things to people on there. So it’s brutal,” said Michelle Arias.
During breakout sessions, students could confidentially talk about experiences with bullying, but adult volunteers were urged to watch for potential trouble signs.
“If a student is hurting themselves or planning on hurting themselves. Hurting someone else or planning on hurting someone else. Or someone is hurting them,” said Challenge Day staff member Azhi Shekarloo.
Many seventh and eighth graders attending the program say cyber-bullying is out of control.
Thirteen-year old Paul Springer is in the eighth grade at Germantown Middle School.
“Like Instagram and Facebook, people think that it’s common to check somebody or to hashtag this insult about someone,” said Paul Springer.
Twelve-year old Julie Earnest is in the seventh grade.
“Like when someone posts a picture of themselves and people say, ‘oh you look good.’ or ‘that’s not the best shirt you have on.’ Sometimes that just goes too deep and sometimes a joke can go too far,” said Julie Earnest.
Businesses and civic groups helped Germantown Middle School raise $14,000 to present the three-day anti-bullying program.
It’s the fourth year Germantown Middle has held the event and we’re told Germantown Middle is the only school in west Tennessee to host Challenge Days.