NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WMOT) — A new report shows there were more than 7,500 cases of bullying recorded in Tennessee's public schools during the 2012-13 school year.
Of the cases reported, 321 were based on race, color or national origin, 695 concerned sex or gender-based discrimination and 168 involved a student's disability.
State Senator Bill Ketron sponsored the legislation that mandates the yearly report. Ketron says he was expecting maybe a 1000 incidents state-wide and so was "shocked" by the numbers.
“Now we have a baseline, or a benchmark, from which to start. Now the true work begins of trying to identify, ‘OK, so how do we…what do we do next? How do we change it?’”
Ketron says the advent of online social media has made the problem much worse. He recalls that a common form of bullying used to be something cruel written on a bathroom wall.
“By the push of a button, instead of just a few people seeing it from 20 years ago, today you have thousands of people who see it immediately, which creates that problem of these kids feeling like they’re not worthy – even up to the point of taking their own life. That’s what we want to try to stop.”
Ketron says it’s now up to students, educators and communities to change the local culture that allows bullying to take place.