CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- The Arts Education Partnership's National Forum wrapped up in Chattanooga Friday with a panel on bullying. Almost everyone agrees that arts programs in schools can have a positive effect on student behavior. But with a lack of funding for the arts, educators may have to be creative in getting those messages out.
Educators say such lessons need to be ingrained early, but teachers aren't always able to work bullying prevention into lesson plans. Arts forum panelists say that should not be an excuse to overlook the importance of teaching kindness.
Karen Glenn of Hamilton County's Students Taking a Right Stand (STARS) said, "We need to reach out to every area students are engaged in, and music is one of them. Whatever challenges they face will have a better outcome."
David and Tina Long of Chatsworth, Georgia became reluctant players on the national stage when their son Tyler committed suicide in 2009. The documentary "Bully," released earlier this year, has given them a chance to speak out on bullying. Their two other children are both active in the arts, which has helped the entire family cope with their loss.
"Support your arts," Tina Long said, "that arts program could be where some kids are going to get saved."
Performances by Chattanooga's Kids on the Block puppet program and Ballet Tennessee illustrated the powerful ways the anti-bullying message can be conveyed via the arts.
Forum participants hope the lessons learned in Chattanooga can be far-reaching.
Missy Crutchfield of the city's Education, Arts and Culture program said, "It's a battle, there will never be enough funding to fully implement school arts programs, but we need to be using the arts every way we can."