White House, Facebook, Horry County pick a fight with bullying

The issue of bullying takes center stage this week at the White House and in Horry County schools.

President Barack Obama is hosting an anti-bullying conference Thursday. In a video on Facebook the president and First Lady Michelle Obama say that bullying should no longer be treated as an unavoidable part of growing up. Obama says schools and communities must be a safe place where children can thrive.

In Horry County, Loris Elementary School will host an event Friday to kick off implementation of a bully-free program. Last October, the school was selected as a pilot school for the Olweus Bully Prevention Program.

Horry County schools spokesperson Teal Britton says the Olweus program goes beyond the school environment to involve the entire community.

"For example, if a student takes an after-school dance program, the dance instructor would reinforce the same anti-bullying rules that the student learns in school."

In January, the school's Bully Prevention Committee was trained by an Olweus trainer and the remaining staff was trained the following month.

As part of the program, 3rd, 4th and 5th graders were surveyed about bullying last fall. The results opened the eyes of the school's assistant principal, Angela Gore. "I think it was like 98 percent of the students stated that when they see bullying happen they want to do something, but they didn't know what to do."

After only a couple of months of raising awareness, Gore says she's already seeing results. Kids now talk to their teachers about teasing or being picked on. They drop notes in Gore's mailbox.

Fifth graders Courtney Caines and Cameron Cook told us, they know what they'd do if they saw someone being bullied.

"I tell them that's not right. What about, it was you being bullied?" Courtney said.

"If I saw a friend be bullied, I would tell an adult at home and an adult at school and make sure something was done about it," said Cameron.

Gore says so far, the school hasn't seen much online-bullying or really, a big problem with any bullying at all. "We are not using this program because we are being reactive, we're trying to be proactive."

The parent teacher organization, local police, Boys and Girls Scouts, faith-based leaders and others are participating in training to support a bully-free community, Britton said.

We want to hear from you. In your opinion, how big of a problem is bullying? Is it worse now than ever? How do you think social media plays a role in bullying?