Child therapist Amanda Gilliam with Thriveworks says in the past two years, she remembers a stark increase in the number of children telling her they were afraid to report bullying.
“Bullying is a huge issue across the board," she said. “Little kids will even say 'I’m not a snitch...you can’t snitch on people.'”
Gilliam says the issue starts early with a kindergarten culture of tattletale shaming. She says the most important step to fixing the issue comes from educating students and parents early about the difference between tattling and reporting.
“Tattling is trying to get someone else in trouble for something that’s not a big deal," she said. “Reporting is going to be protecting yourself or someone else from your physical or emotional safety being at risk.”
At Alcoa Elementary, assistant principal Sara Williams says the staff works hard to draw that distinction through a rhyme.
“I mean it’s a catchy phrase, I hear it all the time. "Be brave, be bold, a teacher must be told," Williams said.
Teacher Jennifer Kelly believes the solution comes from creating a culture of positivity from a young age.
“There’s more to it than just saying no bullying. We have to help build the community in our school so that’s not acceptable...that’s not a part of what we do," she said.
Gilliam says Alcoa's approach is a good one. However, she added that parents themselves could benefit from learning how to talk to their children about bullying.
“We need to let our kids know that they have a voice, that what they have to say matters and that they get to be in charge of their bodies and their emotions," she said.