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Harlem Middle School, national summit tackle bullying in school


Harlem Middle School is taking a tough stance against bullying. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 21, 2011)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011

HARLEM, Ga. -- Across the country, dozens of young teenagers and some younger children have killed themselves because of bullying. Now education experts are trying to put an end to it with a national summit.

Last school year Harlem Middle School asked the students and found 47 percent -- almost half of the student body -- admitted to being the victim of a bully.

The survey may have been unofficial, but the numbers were enough to put administrators into action.

Eighth grader Connor Poole has seen bullying firsthand and knows he's not the only one.

"It's not just a town here, a town there ... it's everywhere. It's affecting everybody," Poole said.

The school has decided to take action to help students like Poole.

"We take any report of bullying serious and I want to encourage parents to do the same thing. Don't minimize it," said Harlem Middle School Principal Carla Shelton.

After extra training over the summer, the school says one key is letting someone know.

"Listen, you've got to let us know. You either let your parent or guardian know, you let a teacher know, you let a counselor know, let some adult know so that we can help you," said school counselor Stephen Inman.

This week the U.S. Department of Education is holding its second annual National Bullying Summit in Washington D.C. The goal is to come up with a strategy to prevent bullying.

"You might think it's just a minor little thing that you say, but it could really impact someone else's life, not only theirs but their family's," Poole said.

Bullying comes in many forms.

"Typically, most people think of bullying as somebody threatening to hurt somebody, but in reality, a lot of the bullying that goes on is verbal or emotional harassment, which over time can be very damaging," Inman said.

Teachers say cyberbullying and growing pressures on the Internet only add more problems.

"They will say things on the computer that they would never dream of saying to a person face to face," said Harlem Middle School Assistant Principal Brian Reeder.

Poole says if he's learned anything, it's to not ignore it.

"Get help before a small problem turns into a very big problem," he said.

Every report of bullying is investigated within the school. So far this year, the school has only had one documented bullying case. They say most cases still fall under a "teasing" category. The national summit will continue on Thursday.

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