Ten-year-old Mahogony Morgan talked with News 12 about her bullying behavior. (May 25, 2011 / WRDW-TV)
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Monday, May 23, 2011
AIKEN, S.C.---The battle against bullies is being fought with new school policies, more stringent rules and increasing awareness of the problem. For the first year ever Richmond County is keeping track of its bullying cases and other school districts are putting together similar models to target the problem.
The battle lines for bullying can be drawn anywhere. The school cafeteria, on the playground, even in the classroom. The fight isn't always physical. Mahogony Morgan, a fourth grader, was willing to share her side of the story with us.
"I wasn't pushing them around or nothing. I was just being mean using foul language to them," she explained.
Hurtful words can scar and isolate. Ten-year-old Mahogony admits she's been written up for her bullying behavior in class. "Because I talk, bad stuff like 'shut up', 'leave me alone' and the N word, because I don't know how to control myself ."
Her friend Rayquan Hatcher added, "I think sometime she just gets frustrated and takes her anger out on other people."
In the cafeteria Mahogony clearly commands the table, but it's when she doesn't get her way a meaner side comes out.
Mahogony says, "If they are in my seat, I push them out of my seat. Pushing people when they are in my way,"
Mahogony's teacher Ms. Grace Sharp teaches at Warrenville Elementary in Aiken. She says Mahogony thrives on being the center of attention.
"When they don't get the attention they resort to trying to control the behavior of the group," Ms. Sharp explained.
Dr. Carol Roundtree is the Director of Student Services for the Richmond County school board, explained, "Having kids understand what makes them angry, what sets them off, so they know the triggers and can remove themselves from those triggers."
Mahagony doesn't always understand her triggers. Dr. Roundtree works with Richmond county school psychologists, a district that has a zero tolerance policy on bullying. She says its up to adults to help students like Mahogony understand their jungle gym of emotions and where their anger stems from to see an upswing in positive behavior.
"I can't control myself. It just comes out," said Mahagony.
"The concerns they have about their own self image, a lack of confidence, feeling of insecurity," said Dr. Roundtree.
Instead, Mahogony is trying to think about the consequences down the line.
"I think about saying bad words to them or just hitting them all the time. I guess i stop because i can't get written up no more. If i get written up i get kicked out of school. So i remember that and that makes me stop"
Ms. Sharp added, "Her words are hurtful we talk a lot about words are something once they are out you cant take it back. You can say you're sorry but doesn't change the feeling the person that was your victim happens to harbor now."
At school Ms. Sharp carries a clipboard logging the good and bad behavior her students show. She says its helped Mahogony keep track of her progress and improve her conduct.
"I think when they meet with success for doing all the right things it allows them to better understand that's the route to take," said Ms. Sharp.
Mentors have helped Mahogony develop more patience in her personality.
Andrew McCaskill of Christ Central Ministries says, "She's learning to take direction, much more compliant when asked to do something. She is doing a better job or learning she doesn't have to rule with an iron fist."
Not all bullies have the same reasons for acting out, but Mahagony says she remembers what sparked the mean behavior.
"When i was eight it started. Kids started being mean to me, just got it from the kids that were mean to me and started being mean to them."
"I think she is feeling more confident about herself a lot of times kids that bully, it seems to be lashing out because they are hurting," said McCaskill.
As she learns some painful lessons through her own actions she's also learning what needs to change. "Sometimes you make yourself feel ugly. The way you acting."
Trying to transform isn't an easy task, she says she's different from other students that don't have her mean streak. "They are smaller, they never been a bully or mean to nobody and it's different for me," explained Mahogony.
In Aiken County they do not have a system in place to track the number of bullying incidents throughout their schools right now.
However, for the first year ever in Richmond county they've logged 36 cases in their schools. Public safety officers say that number could be much higher since many cases are never reported. We checked in with Columbia County too. This school year they've logged 16 cases in their middle and high schools. With the new bullying policy that was enacted this school year, they say they'll have a uniform system in place that will track and report bullies starting in the fall.