Chickamauga schools take proactive stance on bullying - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chickamauga schools take on bullying

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Jessica Brookshire Jessica Brookshire

CHICKAMAUGA, GA (WRCB) -  Schools throughout the Tennessee Valley are looking for ways to combat the bullying problem.  Cleveland (TN) Middle School, which has recently come under fire from a mother for alleged bullying against her son, held a school-wide anti-bullying assembly last month.  In Chickamauga, the schools are turning to a program called KARMA . It stands for Kids Against Ridicule, Meanness and Aggression.

The program is led by its founder,  24-year-old Jessica Brookshire, a pre-law student from Auburn University.  The former Miss Alabama contestant says she was bullied all through school.  She's seen it all:  harmful words, physical violence, cyber bullying, jealousy and "mean girl exclusion."  She encourages those who witness bullying not to be a quiet bystander, but instead, take action.

Brookshire says she delivers her message to students of all ages, from elementary through high school.  But she knows middle school is where most bullying occurs.  It's a time when children are going through physical changes, trying to find themselves.  For many of them bullying is an attempt to gain an advantage.

8th grader Adam Whitsett said,  "A lot of it is at school around other people,  kids trying to be someone they're not.  We're fortunate here at Gordon Lee.  The teachers and administration take it very seriously.  If you report something to them, they take it seriously."

Brookshire takes her KARMA program to thousands of students and teachers each year, and feels like she's doing some good.  She says she has spoken to 92,000 students so far, primarily in her home state of Alabama and Georgia.   Her only regret is that parents don't often hear her message.

"Sometimes they're the ones who need it the most.  Too many parents have their heads in the sand.  They're not watching, they're not listening as they should.  Their children come home defeated, discouraged, depressed.  The parents have to listen, they have to notice."

She hopes the children she sees in her school visits will think again before they say or do something hurtful to their peers.   They tell me I'm pretty, and I'm successful and ask how is it possible that I would know anything about being bullied.  But believe me I do, and I pour my heart out to them in every assembly." 

Standing just over five feet tall, the petite beauty queen talks about how she was given the nickname of "Smurf" in school.  "I didn't mind that, or when the kids would whistle the Smurf theme song.  But when they would tell me that I was ugly, too ugly to live, I began looking in the mirror, and wondered if they were right."

She told Gordon Lee Middle School students how words could be hurtful, not just face to face, but on websites, tweets and texts.  She also explained how "exclusion," from groups, birthday parties, and social events can be considered bullying. 

"I know I can't change the world, but I try to do my part.  One school, one classroom at a time."

For more information, go to www.thekarma.org

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