Posted: Friday, September 6, 2013 --- 9:10pm
Lieutenant John Conger spent his Friday afternoon at Northside Intermediate School in Milton handing out swag to students. Each bag, shirt and tattoo had an important message.
"This year we just thought it would be a good event to come to a recess unexpectedly and just remind them that we're still on their side” says Conger.
About two years ago, community leaders in Milton noticed an increase in bullying. Figuring out how to tackle the problem head on they created "Live The Milton Way,” an anti-bullying program aimed at students.
"I feel that it is a unique program in that it unites the community at large and the schools” says Northside Intermediate Principal Sarah Stuckey.
The program is primarily targeted at fourth graders. Every few weeks a Milton police officer, like Conger, will come to the school and talk with students.
"Students at this age are trying to navigate that world of social relationships and sometimes bullying does occur” says Stuckey.
And the harmful effects can continue through the teen years, even adult years.
"The victims of bullying, there are studies that will tell you that they are more apt to reach out to alcohol to drugs” says Conger.
Before, bullying used to end when students left school for the day. Now, thanks to social media, it can happen at any time.
"It's through Instagram , it's through Twitter, it's through Facebook. It does never stop” says Conger.
Stuckey says that since the program started she's seen the amount of bullying go down, but parents have an even more important role to play.
"I think it's important for parents to realize that they have a lot of power and influence to support their children” Stuckey tells NBC 15.
Parents should also be on the lookout for any signs a child may be being bullied like changes in mood, sleep or eating habits.