Five years into their mission to change the culture of bullying in Kentucky schools, Lone Oak Middle School student Morgan Guess and her mom Susan are joining Governor Matt Bevin for tomorrow's ceremonial signing of a bill that aims to help student victims of bullying.
The bill establishes the definition of bullying as “any unwanted verbal, physical, or social behavior among students that involves a real or perceived power imbalance and is repeated or has the potential to be repeated.”
The Guesses started the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation in 2011 after Morgan, at the age of 8, experienced stomach spasms, panic attacks, and was put on anti-depressants due to bullying. Susan says her daughter’s presence at the signing sends a positive message.
“That we value and we listen to the young people in our state. And I think the message, hopefully, that it gives to other young people is that they can lift up their voices to the injustices of the world and they can make a difference,” Susan said.
Susan says it is important to have a definition of bullying that every school can use and every student can understand.
“It’s difficult for not only a 3rd grader, but for a lot of people to understand the jargon that is part of legal terms. That’s why we felt like we needed a definition which is 27 words,” Susan said. “Because it has words like “unwanted” behavior, kids can no longer say, ‘Well, I was just kidding.’ Well, if it’s unwanted to me then we need to stop that behavior. Real or perceived. It really is about getting a child to come forward and ask for help.”
The signing takes place Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Capitol. The governor officially signed the bill April 9.
Susan says she and her daughter are continuing their work to create a kinder atmosphere in schools. They are currently working with Four Rivers Behavioral Health to open a mental health drop in center for Paducah youth.