Hamilton County Schools addresses bullying at board meeting

New trends have emerged since pandemic started in March 2020

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — “Creating a community of belonging.”

This is the culture that Hamilton County Schools wants to create for its students.

Dr. Marsha Drake was one of three women tonight who spoke on the concern of bullying in school at Thursday night’s board meeting.

She says that, among others, she is “committed” to the “just cause” of keeping equity running through school grounds.

In Hamilton County, STARS Chattanooga Director Karen Glenn says from 2015 to 2020, there was a “significant decrease” in the number of bullying incidents by nearly 50%.

But in her eyes, it’s still not enough.

“It’s important to note that even though we were very pleased to have those numbers, it’s important to note that if there’s one child that’s mistreated, that’s one child too many,” Glenn said.

After March 2020, however, those trends and students’ routines changed.

Glenn says the change in social interactions, as well as “grief and loss” from the pandemic left a “significant impact” on the training they had in place.

“If we’re going to figure out how we got here with the trends that we’ve seen in the last few months, we’ve got to understand first of all … how did we get here?” Glenn asked.

Patricia Russell, the Hamilton County Schools executive director of social, emotional and academic development, says Hamilton County Schools is committed to responding to the rise in bullying.

Student conferences and morning class meetings were just two of the bullying prevention practices presented to the board.

When the new school year begins, an elevated “kindness campaign” will also begin with it — “One Million Acts of Kindness.”

“This was a campaign that took place in Anaheim, California, and they were actually able to reduce their bullying infractions as well as to cut their suspensions in half,” Russell said. “So we’re looking forward to implementing this campaign.”

Russell says Hamilton County schools will “elevate student voice around kindness” and that kind behaviors will be tracked, recognized and hopefully — spread.

“We’re going to do all of these efforts to make sure that we are elevating kindness because we know that that’s an infective way to reduce bullying and harassment behaviors,” Russell said.

Dr. Drake also said that, for years, an anonymous reporting tool for bullying in Hamilton County schools has been available, but some students have actually told her that it was “outdated.”

In response, a QR code has been created and has been added to that reporting tool.

It will be available in all schools next year.

Categories: Chattanooga, Education, Featured, Hamilton County, Local News