Community meeting to address bullying in the Roanoke Valley

CommUNITY Church plans a meeting to address local bullying issues

SALEM – Bullying is an issue that affects kids and teens across the nation on a daily basis, and one that parents and community leaders are working to address here at home.

A recent study found that more than one in three kids or teens have been bullied in the past month. That bullying is leading more than 160,000 kids a day to stay home from school, for fear of being bullied. Those are statistics that Pastor Thomas McCracken with CommUNITY Church in Salem is working to change.

Thursday night's meeting will be open to the public, with parents, students and teachers from every school in our area invited to attend.

The meeting has been in the works for several weeks. Pastor McCracken says the purpose is to bring attention to the issue and let the kids know they're not alone. He says he knows what it's like to be bullied, as he faced some of those same issues when he was in school.

"I had my pants pulled down, was wedgied and tied up for an hour and a half until my mom came by and saw me," he said. "It's different now than it was then. With technology, there's nowhere to go. There's nowhere to hide, since your phone is always ringing. I had a safe place to go. i had my friends, my neighborhood my house. This is a completely different animal now."

Nearly ninety percent of students say they have witnessed cyber bullying, either on facebook or another form of social media. More than a third say they have personally been bullied online.

That's why McCracken is not just looking to address the issue on Thursday, he's also working to make changes.

He's been searching through school policies on bullying in our area and across the nation and he says many have become outdated. While almost every single school policy mentions bullying, many haven't been updated to include online bullying, social media or any of the other issues that students are facing today.

McCracken says he wants to see changes in these policies locally, getting more people in the school system properly trained on how to deal with bullying when they see it.

"Lets train the teachers, great. Lets train the administration," he said. "But lets also train our bus drivers, our nutritional workers and our janitor. Anybody who is rubbing shoulders with our children through the course of an educational day needs to be trained on that policy."

The meeting will feature an informal panel with representatives from Roanoke City, Roanoke County and Salem City schools to answer questions and talk about policy. The Roanoke County Chief of Police and Roanoke County Sheriff will be on hand as well to address questions about cyber bullying and what reach the schools have to address online issues.

The meeting will start at 7 p.m. For more information, click here.