Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster today applauded an anti-bullying program implemented by Tuscumbia High School's National Honor Society.
"It's gratifying to me to see young people come together," Koster said. "The students are personally invested in the success of this."
Tuscumbia students began the "Kindness is Cool" campaign, for all grades K-12, after hearing a presentation in 2011 about Internet safety and cyber-bullying from Tom Durkin, Koster's education director. Koster had recently launched his "Surf Safely" website in 2010 that includes information on how to keep youths safe on the Internet.
Tuscumbia students' campaign included a bulletin board displaying a handprint of every student who signed the "kindness pledge."
It also included a mentoring program, assemblies for elementary and secondary students, a website where students could post affirmations about their classmates and a balloon launch with positive messages and the campaign's website attached to the balloons.
"Because students were behind it, that's what made other kids listen," said Brittany Gaines, Tuscumbia High School National Honor Society sponsor and school counselor.
She said the school has seen real results from the campaign.
Reported incidents of bullying have decreased nearly 20 percent, the number of calls from parents concerning bullying decreased from 23 in 2011 to zero in 2012, school attendance increased from 94.8 percent to 98.2 percent and discipline incidents attributed to bullying declined from 52 incidents in 2011 to 29 incidents in 2012.
"I love knowing that we are making an impact," said Olivia Jarret, Tuscumbia High National Honor Society secretary. "It's not just for nothing."
Koster said he realizes bullying is more invasive than it used to be.
"Everybody has a cell phone, text messages, e-mails," he said. "The student body never escapes each other."
He wants to expand Tuscumbia's anti-bullying campaign to more schools.
"We just developed this program and have seen it grow," Koster said. "We see the potential here and want to replicate this idea around the state."