Hamilton Co. Schools holds 11th annual Speak Out Conference - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Hamilton Co. Schools holds 11th annual Speak Out Conference

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- We often hear the stories of bullying in our schools, but dozens of Hamilton County students are working together to find solutions.

Hamilton County held its annual Student Speak Out Conference Friday, where students tackled bullying and other social issues.

More than one hundred students, representing every high school in Hamilton County, participated in this year's Speak Out Conference.

Students had break-out sessions covering everything from religious expression in schools to bullying and cyber bullying.

"If you don't this certain shoe or you don't look like this or act like that, they put you down and it's like you don't belong," says Red Bank High student Heather Jones.

Jones says the conference sparked new ideas, like creating a peer mentoring program, to stop bullying before it starts.

"I think it's really a good idea because it could change a lot of the schools and a lot of things around here. But we just need people to stand up and not be scared and make this change. We can't do it by ourselves," says Jones.

"They represent a large spectrum of Hamilton County Schools. So you're not hearing from an isolated one or two schools, you're getting a very broad view of what these students are seeing going on in their schools," says Nancy Reed, Director of Special Programs for Hamilton County Schools.

She says the conference encourages students to be advocates for change.

"I really hope that today gives them an opportunity to see what if feels like to be in a leadership role," says Reed.

"I feel like because we get to work together, it's actually easier for us to make a change because a lot of times administrators in our schools don't actually see what's going on and what's happening," says Soddy-Daisy High student Trevor Wahlen.

Wahlen says it is encouraging to work with fellow students, saying it is a spring board for action.

"It's just really good to hear other people's point of view on important issues in our schools," says Wahlen.

"I hope that it doesn't stop here today," says Reed.

Other topics covered in the conference included how schools deal with drug and alcohol use, as well as the pros and cons of social networking.

This was the 11th year for Speak Out.

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