News 12 This Morning / Monday, Aug. 20, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- As Aiken County students return to school this Monday, students in one school will have a bullying prevention program in place. It's the second year in a row Mossy Creek Elementary will target the problem before it starts.
Data from a schoolwide survey shows many of the issues take place at the playground. The principal says it's a problem all schools need to face and fight before the problem escalates.
Ask fifth grader Cameron Cook about the bullying problems he's seen firsthand and he's quick to point them out.
"You know there is a little bit of picking-on in my last class, and you know a little bit of fights on the playground," he said.
This year he'll be wearing his "Got Respect?" T-shirt after his class voted him in as a bridge-builder to help mediate bullying issues between students. It's a program the school started last year.
"It just makes it better for everyone at the school so they don't have to listen to them argue anymore," Cook said.
The bullying prevention plan at the school surveys the student body to pinpoint where the teasing, fighting and name-calling starts.
"We don't have a bullying problem at Mossy Creek, but we don't want to have one," said Principal Stephanie Hammond.
Back in the 2010-2011 school year, 47 percent of the students at Mossy Creek said they would report bullying. This past school year, 60 percent reported they would speak up against it.
"I think they are more willing to come to us about things and not afraid to speak up. We have an anonymous reporting system," said Shari Hooper, the school counselor who helped create the program.
The school also made significant progress in the number of students who felt like they were being bullied. One year ago, 57 percent of students in the fourth and fifth grade hallways witnessed name-calling or bullying. At the end of last school year, 34 percent reported witnessing it.
"A lot of times, it's just their own peers saying, 'I don't like the way you are treating our classmates,'" Hooper said.
Looking ahead, the school will focus on issues with some students leaving other students out of a group setting.
"Just because there are so many new kids at every school," Cook said.
As the school tries to stay one step ahead, other schools in Aiken County plan to follow in Mossy Creek's footsteps.
"I know specifically Aiken Elementary has started on their surveys," Hooper said.
The program Hooper helped initiate could become a bigger model across the district.