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Bullying prevention programs take precedence in Tyler schools

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TYLER (KYTX) - It may have happened to you on the school playground, or in the locker rooms after PE class. Bullying is an issue that is gaining attention right here in East Texas, after a number of recent student suicides. CBS 19's Anthony Austin has been taking a look into the issue.
 
Bullying is more prevalent than we might think. Take a look at this number: 44% of students admit to teasing, harassing, or bullying one of their classmates. 47% of students say they have been that student that was bullied. 25% of students say they don't feel safe at school.

These numbers are climbing every day. That's why schools and community leaders are asking young people to stop the bullying.

"It starts in the home."

Like many of us, Jeremy Flowers know what it's like to be bullied. "My name in and of itself, Flowers -- and I'm a guy. I got teased a lot about that in school." He's always heard growing up that bullying was just a normal part of life, something we all have to go through. "What's normal about being scared to go to school, or worried when's the next time you're going to get picked on, or hurt?"

Jeremy is now an anti-violence educator, teaching students and adults about tolerance.

"Just know...if you're being bullied. It's not your fault."

Hubbard Middle School in Tyler has come up with an innovative way to hold bullies accountable.
Students who are being harassed can report a bully by filling out a form on the school's website. "We ask them to describe, who, what, when, where, did the bullying take place," said the executive director of student services, Jeff Collum.

That form is immediately sent anonymously to a principal. Up to 15 complaints a month come in district-wide. A large number of those conflicts are quickly resolved. "The number one reason students are here is to learn.  If students don't feel safe, don't feel comfortable, or feel  isolated, or alone, it can make that learning experience very difficult," Collum said. 

Hubbard students are also teaching their classmates through handmade posters that picking on someone because they're different is unacceptable. "It's about power or control...to make them feel more superior than someone else."         

Power and control that can be stopped if students, teachers, and parents take a stance. "We want to work with students to let them know this won't be tolerated. We're on their side."    

Tyler ISD also uses a program called Rachel's Challenge starting in elementary schools. The program teaches students to be respectful of others.

Other districts are also getting involved. We spoke with Lindale ISD. They're holding a meeting tonight to start a task force against bullying. Earlier this week, President Obama sent a message to all school districts, explaining to teachers their obligation to protect students from  harassment and bullying.

The President's call to action comes in response to the recent wave of gay teen suicides.

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