A Cobb County seventh grader has used willpower, music and technology to overcome his three-year struggle with being bullied at school.
Cobe Jackson, a 12-year-old from Mableton, said he fought through multiple years of classmates who picked on him, teased him and hurt him mentally and physically.
“They kept on doing things to hurt me, but I did not retaliate because I don’t like to be in fights,” he said.
“I’d just smile when they would call me names, thinking it would stop, but they did still bully me.”
Jackson said students teased him about wearing glasses, calling him names like “nerd” and making fun of him.
“The first two years, I didn’t really know what to do,” he said. “I was scared to tell my mom, because if I told my mom, I thought they’d beat me up more.”
He eventually told his mother, Zanethia Eubanks, and they decided to speak to his principal.
“It stopped for a little, but then it came back,” Jackson said.
The last straw was just a few months ago when another kid tried to choke Jackson in school. Jackson’s mother decided to pulled him out of school, and he is now homeschooled.
“There are good and bad things about being homeschooled,” Jackson said. “I do miss being around a bunch of kids, going to PE and going to lunch, but being homeschooled is also very cool.”
He is also able to spend more time with close friends who attend church with him. “I think it’s been really good,” he said.
And while Jackson struggled with being a victim of bullying for almost three years, he didn’t let that get him down.
Turn a bad situation into an opportunity
Jackson took his bad experience and turned it into something that has helped him learn to deal with bullying, and recently won a first-place prize for his efforts at the state level.
He and his friend Nicolas Badila entered their website into the first-ever Middle School WEBChallenge, sponsored by the TAG-Education Collaborative.
They designed a website, raiseyourmic.org, that educates about how harmful bullying can be and how to overcome it. “We aren’t just talking about how you can deal with bullying but how you can fix the problem and how your friends can fix the problem and how you can stand up to bullying yourself,” Jackson said.
It also addresses the various problems with physical, verbal and cyber bullying.
Badila, an eighth-grader from Jonesboro, developed the coding for the website, and Jackson created music videos and illustrations. “There’s a lot of bullying in this world, so we decided to make a website that could change bullying in schools,” he said. The two middle schoolers were among almost 100 teams that entered the competition, which was also hosted by Google and in collaboration with Georgia Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Day.
They were recognized during an awards ceremony at the Atlanta-area Google location Tuesday night.
Jackson said they each won $800 in college scholarship funds and a one-week summer camp for an app design program with Apple and Android at Kennesaw State University.
With the success they’ve had during this three-month process, Jackson said they are hoping to launch “The 31 Days of Non-bullying” in local schools to promote their website and the cause.
In October, which is designated as National Bullying Awareness Month, they will be inviting students to create similar anti-bullying music videos. Jackson and Badila will judge the entries, and the winner will get tickets to Atlanta Hawks games.
Districts working to stop bullying
Tim Jones of Marietta Middle School said bullying is something he takes very seriously at his school and throughout the school district. “I think what’s going on more now is that we’re more cognizant of it,” he said. “I think people are now saying that this is something that’s so serious that it needs to be addressed, and I think it’s absolutely important.” They have a number of programs in place to educate students, parents and faculty on how to prevent bullying and how to intervene if it becomes an issue. At the beginning of each year, counselors define bullying to students and explain to them that if or when they have an issue, they need to report it immediately. Jones said they have a behavior code in place regarding bullying, and three strikes means you’re out.
There is a parent information guide on the district’s stance on bullying, ways for cyber bullying to be reported in the school if needed and a “Bullying Prevention Plan” with a checklist of what takes place when it’s going on.
A group of students is also creating a video that addresses the issue and includes heart-wrenching personal stories from students who have or are struggling with it.
Jones said it’s all about developing an environment in the Marietta City Schools District that cultivates anti-bullying.
Jeff Dess with the system’s Prevention Intervention Center said there are a number of signs parents or guardians can keep an eye out for if they suspect their child might be subject to bullying. “Kids will regress, become quiet, they will fake sick, stay home, have complaints that they don’t want to go to school,” he said. “In high school, they might just drop a class.”
Because bullying can be shameful and embarrassing to some students, getting them to report it can be one of the challenges.
“Getting kids past that and trusting that the adults they tell will do something with that information is important,” Dess said.
Several of Cobb’s schools have implemented a plethora of anti-bullying programs, like “No Place for Hate,” and others have taken the approach of telling students what they can do, rather than what they can’t do.
“There’s a lot of different strategies being used to increase the kindness, empathy, caring piece,” Dess said. “We want it to get infused in the culture. It is not a kid issue, it’s a people issue.”
More details about each district’s bullying policies or programs already in place can be found on their websites at marietta-city.org for Marietta City Schools or cobbk12.org for the Cobb County School District.