After Ooltewah incident, Mayor Andy Berke announces plan to stop bullying

After Ooltewah incident, Mayor Andy Berke announces plan to stop bullying

January 5th, 2016 by Kendi A. Rainwater in Local Regional News

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke speaks to members of the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board, May 20, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke issued a Mayoral Directive Tuesday morning directing leadership to proactively address any potential for hazing within the city's facilities.

The directive issued to the Chattanooga Youth and Family Development Department is in response to the alleged rape of an Ooltewah High School freshman by older basketball teammates.

"Hazing is a serious threat to the safety and well-being of our young people," Berke said in the statement.

The statement says hazing will not be tolerated in any building or facility managed by the City of Chattanooga or program facilitated by the city.

"From the horrific incident currently in the news to conversations with multiple members of the Mayor's Youth Council, we understand this is a serious issue and we must reassure both victims and offenders that hazing is unacceptable in our community," Berke says in the statement.

Berke directs the Department of Youth and Family Development to review all procedures and policies "with an eye toward prohibiting hazing and bullying of any kind."  He also asks for training to take place for all staff working with students in the Youth and Family Development centers across the city to ensure employees can recognize and quickly address hazing, the statement says.

"The safety and wellbeing of children in Chattanooga does not rest with one agency, organization or individual," the statement says.  

The city plans to establish ways for students to anonymously report abuse even if it does not occur on City-owned property.  The information collected will then be given to the Hamilton County school system, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, or the Chattanooga Police Department "so swift action can be taken," the statement says.

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