FORT MILL — Special to the Fort Mill Times
Fort Mill High Schools All YOUth on Board students hosted a bullying prevention panel called Your Choice, Your Voice, You recently at the school district office.
For some residents, it could not have come at a better time: just before the Dec. 4 panel was getting underway, a student and two parents sitting in the audience could be heard discussing a bullying incident from earlier that day. The student began to cry and said, I just did not know how to handle it.
Neither the student nor the parents wanted to be identified, but some of what they were about to hear seemed tailor made. The organization that hosted the discussion is tasked with finding ways to deal with bullying, said Tommy Schmolze, assistant superintendent of the Fort Mill School District.
There are so many different definitions of bullying and these students meet once a month to minimize bullying in their schools, Schmolze said. As a district, we are working to stop bullying. This is one way to get the topic on the table.
The students who led the panel Trent Chantemerle, Taylor Breeland, Jessica Clark, Ashonti Nash, Andrew Tomes, Keegan Gault and Brianne Hunter are all Fort Mill High students. The program drew about 45 people.
Kelly Medley, advisor for Fort Mills YOUth on Board started the discussion by listing the five major types of bullying issues students said are most common: bandwagon bullying, gossiping, cyber-bullying, perception and respecting others. The students presented a PowerPoint to the audience to show the statistics of bullying in schools, as well as their goals for raising local awareness.
Each person has the right to feel safe in their own school. Bullying should be addressed before it causes harm, Chantemerle said.
Among the statistics offered, the students said more than half their peers witness bullying, that most incidents last 37 seconds and students in grades four to eight are the demographic most likely to encounter bullying. There was a more dire statistic mentioned:
Suicide from bullying is one of the leading causes of death for children under the age of 14, Chantemerle said.
The students also answered questions from Schmolze to allow the audience to hear some of their personal stories.
In gym class, girls will make fun of other girls weight. If a girl cannot run as fast as everyone, she is made fun of. If she cannot keep up with everyone, she is made fun of, Clark said.
Cyber-bullying is increasingly common, panelists said, citing social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat, where students post unflattering photos of peers so they can be mocked.
The pictures are permanent once they are on the Internet and many people will not know a picture of them is out there until it has been shared hundreds of times, said Breeland.
One of the most common forms of bullying anywhere is gossip and panelists said Fort Mill is no exception.
Something about gossip, as humans, we all enjoy it, Schmolze said.
One way a rumor can be stopped on the spot is by simply asking, Who is your source? Chantemerle said.
At the end of the discussion, the students shared some of their solutions to curb bullying.
Stand up and others will follow. You cannot be afraid others wont join you, Clark said.
If we can spread this group, making it a more prestigious club, Gault said, more people will be aware of the necessary changes.
Clark added, Everyone just has to remember that each of us are different, but we all like to be treated the same.
One of the parents in the audience was Mims DriscolI, a local mother who went public after an incident in which she said her son was bullied after school on an activity bus.
She said, It was a beautiful beginning.
Driscoll praised Sugar Creek Elementary School Principal Scott Frattaroli and Kelly Medley, the Fort Mill High YOUth on Board advisor, and said parents are considering organizing some unity-building events.
I think the person who should be applauded the most is Dr. Frattaroli because, without crisis, he stood as a leader at his school and said there is no place for bullying, Driscoll said.
As a group of moms, we thought it was a good effort and were talking about doing a Hands Across Fort Mill and getting all the schools and businesses together and show unity.
Fort Mill Times Editor Michael Harrison contributed.