School may be dismissed, but bullying can still be happening. A local Ocean Springs woman has taken her past experiences and now helps educate students on the harm bullying can cause individuals.
A ‘choose kindness’ sign hanging in the Ocean Springs Love Shack Bar and Grill has more meaning behind it than simply encouraging people to be nice to one another. Karen Horn, Mrs. Mississippi International 2020, lives by those words in her pursuit of helping put an end to bullying. “My passion is stopping bullying and abuse in schools. Our children are dying and I think many people don’t realize that.”
Schools aren’t the only place abuse is happening. Social media and cellphones have led to faceless bullying as people hide behind screens. “Cyber bullying has just hit the roof. We have about 73 percent of children admit to being cyber bullied.”
Bullying can take many forms including mental, emotional, and physical abuse, all of which Horn has personal experience with. “I started being abused when I was five years old and it was, it escalated from being, I was physically abused, I was abused in every way you can imagine. I was picked on relentlessly. I remember that in sixth grade two girls held my arms behind my back in the bathroom while a girl punched me in the stomach. And I sat in the bathroom and cried for about five minutes.”
After years of suffering from abuse, Horn has found a simple way to combat bullying: choosing kindness, whether that means not letting someone sit alone at lunch or saying hi to the new kid. “We need to teach our children how to be kind. We need to teach them, hey, it’s not right to make fun of someone because they’re different because we are all the same when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it.”
Horn travels to local schools, educating students on the definition of bullying, the different types of bullying, and how to prevent it. “It’s easier to be kind than to be hateful. It’s just like it’s easier to smile than to frown.”