NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – On Monday, school counselors, administrators and mental health workers gathered at the Opryland Hotel for the 14th annual International Bullying Prevention Association Conference.
The theme of this year’s event is “Hitting the High Notes with Empathy and Kindness.”
Sixteen-year-old Natalie Hampton was one of the guest speakers.
Once a bullying victim in middle school who ate lunch alone every day, Hampton has now developed a new program to make schools more inclusive and kind.
“When I was in seventh and eighth grade I went through a horrific bullying experience,” she recalled. “I was physically attacked and verbally bullied. On top of that, I ate lunch alone every day and that isolating experience really stuck out to me and I really wanted to do something about it once I was able to change schools.”Hampton’s new app called “Sit With Us” allows students who are taking a stand against bullying to create bio pages.
Users can also add new friends and become a “Sit With Me Ambassador,” meaning they welcome any student to join them at lunch.
“We have over 100,000 users and we are operating in eight different countries worldwide,” Hampton said
Lizzie Sider, a Top 40 Nashville recording artist, said she used her experience being bullied as a child for inspiration for her song, “Butterfly.”
“I use to hide and keep inside. Afraid to show the world who I was,” Sider sings.
She said she was bullied in grade school.
“It was a very hard time for me. I came home crying every day. I felt that I was worthless; felt that I was just very defeated. I was walking out the door one day and my dad told me, ‘No one has the power to ruin your day,’” Sider recalled.
The singer also developed a nationwide anti-bully prevention assembly. She has personally visited 400 schools and created a bully prevention video that is played in more than 3,400 schools.
“My message to anyone who is being bullied is hang in there, it’s going to end and you are not alone,” said Sider.
The U.S. Justice Department reports 160,000 children per day don’t attend school for fear of being bullied.