MUSCOGEE COUNTY, GA (WTVM) - Students with special needs are one of the main reasons children are bullied, according to a local expert.
Joey Michaels is the parent of a sixth grader in Columbus whose says his son is tormented at school daily.
"Threaten to bring a gun to school to shoot him. They pushed him in the lockers and pushed him down out front," Michaels said.
Michaels says he's contacted school officials about the problems, but his son claims the bullying continues. On top of the daily struggles at school, his son also has Asperger's, ADD and Schizophrenia.
"No special needs child or regular student should have to go through being bullied," said Michaels.
What's alarming is the suicidal thoughts his son has.
"Getting him counselors, therapists and the Boys and Girls Club. Around other people besides the co-students so he'll know other people want him around," said Michaels.
Dr. Joseph Jones, a bullying expert currently an Associate Dean at Columbus State, uses a stuffed animal in schools to teach about bullying.
Jones says bullying is different in every community. Students who experience bullying of some form are at increased risk of poor school adjustment, anxiety, and even suicide.
"It's all about power. And we should focused and realize the repeated targeting of an individual because that person is different," said Jones.
Different may be race, gender, or sexuality. In his research, Dr. Jones says bullying can have a lasting impact on students in society and in schools. Teachers must be the first point of contact to prevent bullying.
"The kid isn't asking to be bullied. It's up to the teacher to provide a safe place for that classroom and that kid," said Jones.
Jones has conducted research and written several publications about bullying. He also helped develop a successful anti-bullying program in in two other cities such including Macon, GA.
The programs help teachers and administrators address and eliminate bullying in schools. He hopes to bring the same ideas to Muscogee County.
"I was a high school English teacher for a number of years. I know it's crazy and it's busy but these students are hurting themselves. They are being bullied and committing suicide. The data shows the majority of students who are bullied in high school plan on not going to college because they think it's going to be the same. That's a life-altering kind of thing," said Jones.
Jones says bullying is sometimes a learned behavior. but parents must still be proactive in meeting with school officials to report bullying.
The Behavior Code and Discipline Policy Handbook of The Muscogee County School District says bullying is not allowed and Incidents may be reported to any school district employee, and can be reported anonymously by calling 706-748-2267 or by filling out a 'silent report' form at your school.
Reports can also be made to the State by calling 1-877-729-7867 or 1-877-Say-Stop.