POOLER, GA (WTOC) - With the start of new year, many students head back to the classroom, and school leaders want to make sure students feel excited to do that.
On Monday, Savannah-Chatham County Public School System Student Affairs presented a Bullying Prevention & Awareness Summit for the second year in a row in Pooler.
"I changed my character and changed the way I was acting because of bullying," said Semaj Clark, a young person's advocate.
Clark was shot and paralyzed earlier this year while visiting Savannah to help with youth outreach programs.
"It is key a word right now, everyone is talking about bullying. Back in my day what you may call mean girls or mean guys, they now call them bullies," said Dr. Quentina Miller-Fields, the Director of Student Affairs for SCCPSS.
People in the Coastal Empire have seen the effects of bullying, whether that is suicide, parents pulling their students out of school or students becoming bullies themselves.
The platform for this problem gets bigger every day.
"Social media has definitely changed bullying and we have people that are out here to talk about that. That has changed, the faces of the victims that are bullied have changed," said Miller-Fields.
Students, staff, counselors, even parents started their new year doing the best thing to prevent bullying: awareness.
"They need to understand that these are lifelong consequences. You can really effect someone's self-esteem, their feelings of self-worth, their future," said Heather Thies, Director of Education and Volunteers for the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth.
It is important for teachers to know the signs and for parents to speak up if they notice a change in their child.
"It is different for everybody. Some people shut down and internalize it, some act out more, some because bullies themselves because is it easier to deal with it that way," said Thies.
The most important thing for students to know if they are bullied is to "speak out."
"Do not hold it in, people like to conceal stuff and a lot of times that makes things worse. You will start to isolate yourself, you may start to act out. I would just say speak out," said Clark.
"I was scared at first, but then I learned to stand up for myself. I learned how to be brave and tell other people," said Trinity Perry, a middle school student in Chatham County.
The district attorney's office says some hateful comments, like threats on social media, are illegal. Even if children post those threats to social media under a phony name. They can get a subpoena to track that child and find out who sent it.