A total of 362 incidents of bullying were reported last year to Hamilton County public school administrators.
Yet that didn’t translate into a big turnout Thursday night for an anti-bullying “boot camp” at Coolidge Park in North Chattanooga.
Only a handful of kids heard a reading of the book “Bully Beans,” by Russ Huesman, the football coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Huesman was followed by the event’s headliner, Dr. Jay Banks, a speaker from Spring Hill, Tenn., who has traveled the country for 14 years giving a rousing anti-bullying talk.
“Bullying is when somebody tries to be the boss of you,” Banks said, explaining that a kindergarten girl gave him that definition. “Bullying can happen physically, emotionally and socially.”
Banks used the first four letters of the word “afraid” as an acronym to teach kids how to resist bullies.
The letter A, he said, stands for avoid bullies, which he said can reduce bullying by 75 percent.
“If people won’t love you back, stay away from them,” Banks said.
F stands for “find a friend,” he said.
“Never be alone in school or the neighborhood,” Banks said, getting the kids there to repeat those words along with him.
R stands for report bullying, he said. And A means act confident, Banks said, because kids who do so are “three times less likely to be chosen by bullies.”
Jerica Winbush, whose 7-year-old daughter, Kennedi, attends Brown Academy, happened to be in Coolidge Park with her family when the anti-bullying boot camp began — so they decided to check it out.
“I liked it,” she said. “More people should have come for it.”
The boot camp is part of the KidKlout community initiative by Comcast Spotlight, the local advertising sales division of Comcast Cable. The Coolidge Park event was sponsored by Comcast, Mountain View Ford Lincoln, Steak ‘n Shake and Children’s Hospital at Erlanger.
The Hamilton County School District addresses bullying and cyber-bullying in a “Code of Acceptable Behavior and Discipline” brochure that’s given to each of the district’s roughly 43,000 students, said Karen Glenn, the district’s director of safe schools learning environment.