(Memphis) “I didn’t realize it was that deep until she told me she didn’t want to wake up. She didn’t want to wake up anymore,” mother Clara West said.
They are words no parent wants to hear, but West heard them from her 8-year-old daughter after she was bullied at school.
Bullying is a real threat, and parents are at a cross roads on getting help .
“I wasn’t taken seriously. I didn’t know how to deal with it,” West said.
So West created an anti-bullying program to take into schools, churches and the community.
The KoKo and Friends Program, or Keep on Keeping On, places volunteers in schools and neighborhoods to look out for problems and mentor kids.
The ‘Not on Our Watch’ portion focuses on relationships and the real issues behind bullying.
“Togetherness, community, us coming together understanding our differences, coming together so so we can help the kids, help each other and grow,” said Daniel West, who works with the program.
The ‘Wise Up’ portion teaches parents their legal options in bullying and why they should document who they contact about a bullying problem.
“Often they go and complain and don’t realize there are some legal remedies even if schools are derelict in their responsibilities, hold them accountable,” Rodney Ursery, who works with the program, said.
Some parochial schools are using KoKo and Friends, but the Shelby County school system isn’t using it.
Randy McPherson is the manager of student behavior at the county school system.
“”We look at a lot of materials,” McPherson said.
He says the district is inundated with program requests, but SCS uses its own comprehensive approach to bullying.
“Many of our schools have a campus member whose job is to be in places where problems occur so they can be the eyes, ears, feet on the ground,” said McPherson.
Anonymous tip lines allow students to report problems and they are reporting them.
“Yes we get a lot more calls, but what we have seen over the last few years is our actual incidents of bullying has been trending downward,” McPherson said.
He says when the bullying occurs outside of school and in cyber space, it’s different.
“We can react to it, but legally there is not a lot we can specifically do if it does not cause disruption of the educational environment,” McPherson said.
Memphis Police can react.
The Police Department’s COPS Program deals directly with bullying, wherever it happens.
“We make sure children are safe and make it to the school OK and home OK,” said Lt. Steven Ware with the COPS Program.
“We try to tell people doing the bullying you need to stop, this is against the law,”‘ said Clayton Turner with the COPS Program.
“Just intimidation alone is a simple assault as well. We can issue them a juvenile summons and make a physical arrest in some instances,” said Lt. Ware.
Some parents are also finding unique ways to push the anti-bullying message through other kids.
Last month, the teen girl group KARMA made a stop at Earl High School in Arkansas using music and moves to relay a message: time out for bullying
“When they see us they say hey they were bullied and it gives them hope,” Journey Barton of KARMA said.
The message resonated.
“It’s very inspirational to children, when you hear it and hear the stuff, it touches your heart,” seventh grader Joy Chase said.
“I had to stop two of my friends from killing themselves because of what other people said. It’s not right,” nithth grader Cortez Chase said.
“It really allows them to see if they have a positive attitude, that I can have a positive attitude. If they don’t bully then I cannot bully,” said mother Jessica Jefferson.
When bullying becomes too much, some schools will allow parents to get safety transfers. That may solve the problem in the school setting.
You can also call MPD’s COPS Program at 901-323-8199 for bullying problems in or out of school.