Bullying youth summit set for Saturday

Published 12:17 am Thursday, August 10, 2017

By Christian Coffman

NATCHEZ — The Alcorn State University Extension Program and the Natchez-Adams School District are combining forces Saturday to combat bullying.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Natchez High School, the public is invited to the Peer Pressure and Bullying Youth Summit.

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Topics on the agenda include bullying and cyberbullying, healthy relationships, gang-related violence, peer pressure and the psychological issues of peer pressure and suicide.

Natchez-Adams School District Public Relations Coordinator Steven Richardson said the issues that will be tackled at the summit are prevalent in schools nationwide.

4-H Youth Development Educator and school board member Dr. Brenda Robinson said she presented the summit idea to NASD Board President Amos James and Superintendent Fred Butcher.

“Mr. Butcher felt this was an excellent program for the district,” Robinson said. “He stressed that this would set the stage for the school year and promote a safe learning environment.”

Richardson said the summit would offer advice on how to handle bullying and show potential bullies how to handle themselves.

“With bullying on the rise … we want to jump ahead, be proactive, and address some of the issues that many students experience during their (school years) across the nation,” Richardson said.

Presenters for the topics include Adams County Sheriff’s Office Crisis Intervention Team members Ivori Campbell, Derrik Freeman and Darrius Woods, Alcorn’s 4-H youth educator Heather Brice, district school counselor Sonya Mars and Interim Director of Alcorn’s Department of Human Services Dr. Martha Ravola.

The summit committee is co-chaired by Susie B. West Elementary Assistant Principal Shamekia Isaac and Fallin Career and Technology Center’s vocational counselor Linda Birdsong.

Richardson said the summit has changed since a similar one took place in 2011.

“Now we have cyber bullying, and back then it was unheard of … with Snapchat and Instagram, all the new stuff … we have to address that now,” Richardson said.

Richardson said he does not think bullying is prevalent in the school district at a high rate.

He credits programs designed to keep students engaged in a way that moves them away from bullies and bullying.

“Again, our bullying reports are very minimal,” Richardson said. “But we would like to have no bullying. We have zero tolerance for it; a student who bullies will be disciplined.”

Richardson said even still a risk for bullying exists with the rise of new social media technology.

“Children have to face a lot of challenges these days with technology and social norms that did not exist that we as adults did not have to face growing up,” Richardson said. “We are seeing deaths as a result of texting … This is not a Natchez problem, this is a nationwide problem.”

Richardson said the summit has two goals.

The primary purpose is to make clear what the district expects from students in regards to behavior for the 2017-18 school year.

The second goal is to be proactive and set NASD as a leader in addressing national issues.

Richardson said he hopes other districts will see the efforts made in Natchez and want to reproduce it in their areas.

“Hopefully we can inspire other communities,” Richardson said.

The summit is free and open to the public and lunch will be served. Those interested in attending can register the day of the summit, Richardson said.