Joyce Marie Taylor
Hamilton County High School students Robyn Barber and Regina Carson play an active role in the Hamilton County Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Youth Coalition and they gave an update on some issues students face at the high school at a meeting of the coalition on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Barber began by saying high school students face several issues and they’re not just related to drugs. Cyber bullying, teen pregnancies, sex on campus and sexually transmitted diseases, she said are some critical areas of concern.
“These things are occurring and they occur everyday,” Barber said. “These are things our adults are blind of, things that we see.”
Barber said during the course of a school day she hears students talking about these things.
“They’re becoming more and more of a problem,” she said. “Our biggest thing right now is cyber bullying. It’s a really big problem. It causes more than just...,” she hesitated. “It kills a kid.”
Coalition member Brenda Carter interjected, “It’s not just Hamilton County. It’s all over the United States and the world.”
There is a policy on use of cell phones at school, Barber said, which is before and after school and during lunch, but she said a lot of the students ignore it. It was noted that cell phones and other devices like ipads that have access to the Internet make cyber bullying easier to do throughout the day, rather than just being limited to a hardwired personal computer or a laptop.
HCHS student Madiyah Timoney, who was also at the meeting, said, ”You can’t prevent bullying. People are going to bully people. Since you can’t do that, then just try to prevent the suicide that is happening.”
Timoney said a student who takes his or her own life usually feels like they are the only one going through their particular problem and when it becomes too much to bear it leads to thoughts of suicide. Many times they succeed in killing themselves.
Barber explained that YouTube is another site where kids post hateful videos of someone being bullied and oftentimes random people who the student doesn’t even know will post mean, harsh comments on the website, which causes even further emotional pain for the one being bullied.
Coalition member Sharon Gay asked the girls, “How do you see intervention? What do you think we can do to stop this?”
Timoney said she thought the biggest thing is to make people understand how the person who is being cyber bullied feels when it happens to them.
Barber said she felt parents could help by being more available to speak with their children when they get home from school to address these issues. When parents aren’t around, Barber said, kids use the escape system of getting on the Internet on social media sites like Facebook to air their frustrations. Barber said many kids, if they are feeling bad, they get on the Internet with the purpose of making someone else feel as bad as they do.
HCSO Sergeant Emily Lumpkin said with the participation of students like Barber, Carson and Timoney in the youth coalition, law enforcement can learn from them and help to address the situations.
“Some of this stuff is over our heads,” Lumpkin said. “We didn’t know it was going on.”
Executive Director of the coalition Grace McDonald said, “Ultimately, the word needs to get to the parents. Teachers can help, other adults can help, but the bottom line is the parents have to take charge. Like our youth said, there are means to block and our parents need to be doing that.”
Barber said she knows of instances where not only is the student doing the cyber bullying, but the parents are doing it, too.
Marilyn Adams, a local outreach advocate for Another Way, advised everyone she was available 24/7 to help victims of domestic or sexual violence.
“I know that there is domestic violence going on in homes and the kids see this,” said Adams. “Because they see Dad treating Mom that way, they think it’s okay. Girls see Mom being treated that way, so they think it’s the norm.”
Adams said those type scenarios where parents belittle one another brings down a child’s esteem.
Carson said they are at a point now where they feel they have enough information to have a meeting with the teachers at the school to let them know how cyber bullying affects students and to ask what they can do to help stop it. A tentative meeting is scheduled for March.