By Johnny Jackson
Anna Arnold said she dropped the first part of her given name, which is Lou Anna, many years ago, because of the bullying she endured as a youngster.
Arnold acknowledged that she stuttered as a young child, and other students would poke fun at her expense, stuttering part of her first name: "Lou-Lou-Lou." As an adult, she no longer stutters, but continues to alter her name.
"So many kids are devastated when people make fun of them, or whole groups turn against them," said Arnold, a retired educator, who still works. "Kids cannot learn when they are in fear of intimidation or discrimination."
The 37-year veteran educator said she has spent the past several years advocating for bullying-prevention. Her efforts to see that, eventually, no child becomes the victim of bullying has earned her the top spot in an international bullying-prevention organization. She was recently elected President of the International Bullying Prevention Association (IBPA), a 1,400-member organization supporting the use of research-based, bullying-prevention methods at schools, work, and beyond.
"She's been a driving force behind it," said Patti Agatston, an IBPA board member. "We were thrilled to have her, with her passion for bullying-prevention. We are very excited to have her welcoming presence leading the way on our board."
Arnold is expected to preside over the board for one year, through its Eighth Annual IBPA Conference in New Orleans, La., Nov. 6-8, 2011.
The bullying-prevention advocate said she has been working to bring anti-bullying programs to local schools, and to keep them in place. She has been contracted by the Henry County School System for past six years to serve as its family resource and parent-involvement coordinator, and also coordinates the school system's Safe and Drug-free Schools Program.
Arnold is in her 20th year working as an educator in Henry County. She holds a Bachelors Degree in English and drama education from the George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. She has a Masters Degree in Education from Georgia State University, and a leadership in administration degree from the University of West Georgia.
She participates in, and speaks at, seminars around the country, including the Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals' (GAESP) 2010 Fall Conference, held in November at St. Simons Island. She most recently attended IBPA's Seventh Annual Conference in Seattle, Wash., entitled "The Challenge and Promise of the Cyberworld."
Cyber bullying, Arnold explained, is the new, leading form of bullying among young people. She added it is also the most deprecating. "Kids are so cruel, and there are so many web sites now," she said. "It never stops. Now, it's 24-7... It's so much easier to be mean, when you don't see the person that you're disrespecting.
"There is such a variety of bullying that goes undetected," she continued. "A lot of it is parents do not understand computer safety. The irony of it is that kids won't tell their parents, because their parents will take away their cell phones, and that's their social networking [tool]."
Arnold said she believes a significant volume of cyber bullying can be curtailed "if parents can simply take a computer out of a child's room, and put it in the game room or someplace where people can see the interaction."
For the past several years, she has been involved with others in organizing anti-bullying programs in local schools. The programs include: Love and Logic, and the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, which help instruct parents, teachers and students on ways to recognize, address and prevent bullying behaviors.
"We just saw more and more instances with bullying, and we felt the need to help," said Arnold. "One of the things that always amazes me is that, many times, teachers don't consider exclusion as a form of bullying. It is critical that schools have safe cultures and welcoming cultures where everyone can answer questions without fear of ridicule, and interact with peers without fear of being excluded."
Arnold said she is seeking others to join her efforts. Those interested in joining the IBPA organization, should contact Arnold, via e-mail, at firstname.lastname@example.org