THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE for the value of a good education. When our children are attending school daily, they have an opportunity to learn, flourish and realize their dreams.
However, students cannot learn when they do not feel safe. Far too many of our young people have fears about their personal safety in and outside of the classroom due to bullying.
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that a child is bullied at school every seven minutes. When this serious issue is not addressed, it severely impacts the well-being of all youth involved--both the victim and the alleged bully--and can lead to excessive absences or other damaging behaviors.
Sadly, I know this all too well. I have talked to many truant students who have told me the reason they are not going to school is because they are being bullied by their classmates.
I have also met with families whose children have committed suicide as a result of bullying at school or on social media who are seeking justice for their loved ones.
These alarming patterns led my office to work with the Helping Montgomery Families Initiative (HMFI) and Montgomery Public Schools (MPS) in developing the "Bullying Stops With Me" program. By texting "nobully" to 444999, students will receive a message asking for their information, the bully's information, and what school they attend.
The texting format allows young people to use a medium they are comfortable with to reach out about troubling situations. The messages are sent straight to me, reviewed, and are then shared with the staff at HMFI, who follow up with the child and their parents or guardians to begin addressing the issue immediately.
When launching this initiative, my office worked closely with the Central Alabama Community Foundation to create informational posters about the "Bullying Stops With Me" program to hang in all Montgomery Public Schools. This initiative is so important to me that I also commissioned a series of educational materials featuring the words "nobully" and the "444999" number that are shared with students when my staff and I go to speak at schools and community outreach programs geared toward our youth.
But perhaps one of the most effective avenues for getting the word out about the "Bullying Stops With Me" initiative and decreasing incidences of bullying in our schools is the I-LEAD Program. A collaboration between the Montgomery County...