Oak Grove City Council member Isaiah Spencer saw it a necessity. Recent events involving Oak Grove children being bullied made it that way.

A parent whose child had allegedly been bullied on a school bus asked him what he was going to do about it.

So Spencer and the city on Thursday evening hosted an anti-bullying and suicide prevention presentation at Oak Grove Community Center.

Attended by Christian County Public Schools officials and city administrators, each heard from Oak Grove and Clarksville teenagers the effect bullying has had on their lives.

"A lot of kids have been through a lot of things," said anti-bullying activist Sharon Kaye Edwards, who acted as the main presenter at the event. "You don't know what's going on with that kid. You don't know what that child has been through. You don't know exactly what's going on."

The issues explored didn't focus solely on peer-to-peer bullying. Oak Grove parent Amber Ehmen said her daughter, Addison Plumley, had been bullied by adults at her school.

"Last week my daughter had a pretty severe panic attack at school. She suffers from anxiety and depression. She went to the office because she was upset and she needed to regroup," Ehmen said as she struggled with tears. "She was patted on the head like a dog by the principal and told 'you're fine, go back to class.'"

Ehmen said had her daughter been another student, one that was a little bit closer to the edge, they may have gone home that day and killed themselves because no one would listen to them.

"And that breaks my heart, because it's not just kids bullying kids, it's adults. Our kids are supposed to be able to trust these people. We send our children off every day. These people have our kids more than we do."

Plumley, 14, put her feelings about the situation onto paper. After coming home, she wrote a letter expressing her frustration. She read it to the group of about 40 people inside the center's gymnasium.

"I'm sick and tired of adults telling me that ... you're too young to go through anxiety and depression," she read. "Just because I am a child does not mean I am not a human being."

The mother of a Clarksville teen shared a story about a young boy bullying her daughter. The child pulled her daughter's hair, then threw a weave he had in his backpack at her. Since it happened during a gathering of students inside her school's gym, many students saw and began laughing at her.

"She called me, she was crying, she said 'momma, I don't want to be here anymore,'" said the mother, Latosha Jett. "I've gone up to that school several, several times."

Jett said she was so concerned about the escalating bullying her child received that she quit her job, focusing instead of going up to the school "every day" to try and get answers.

After another incident in which a student allegedly told her daughter, Brandy Jett, that she was "the worst person in this school," Brandy went to the principal and confessed that she wanted to commit suicide.

The emotional impact had taken its toll. Brandy started failing her classes, her mother said, despite having never done so before, or even come class. Her focus had lapsed.

"I was done with (the school)," Latosha said, adding that she enrolled her child in another school just to finish the year.

Their issue, Latosha said, is ongoing, but "something has to be done."

Edwards brought up many children to the audience to be recognized, though no others spoke of their own experiences with bullying.

She and her nonprofit group, I Am Invisible Bullying and Suicide, put on presentations like the one in Oak Grove at many schools, though moreso in Tennessee. She spoke of her own struggles with tragedy at a young age, and a member of the group performed a song about feeling invisible.

Brad Hawkins, chief operating officer with CCPS, spoke toward the end of the presentation to address how the schools handle those delicate situations.

The district implemented a tip line last year that is accessible from each school's website and can be filled out anonymously. These tips go to him, the director of pupil personnel, or district discipline administrator Kim Stevenson, who was also on hand. Each of the three handle different types of disciplinary cases.

Stevenson said if a parent or child isn't satisfied with what's going on at the school, they should come to her, because she would open up an investigation.

"Your panic, your depression, your anxiety, I've got it too and I'm a survivor," she told Plumley. "So you can do it too."

Stevenson said when she receives those forms from the tip line, she does more than focus on punishing the individual responsible for the bullying. She gets the school therapist in touch with the victim for emotional support.

"I'm telling you all, spread the word," she said. "If you're not happy with what's going on as a parent, call me. I handle things."

Jesse Jones is the editor of The Eagle Post. Reach him at jjones@kentuckynewera.com.

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