With National Bullying Prevention Month underway, here are some statistics from PACER.org.
• More than 160,000 kids miss school every day out of fear of being bullied.
• Six out of 10 students report being bullied at least once a day
• About 33 percent of students report being bullied during a school year
• More than one in three young people have been victims of cyberbullying.
• Kids who are bullied are more likely to develop depression and anxiety disorders that can last a lifetime.
• In some cases, bullying has led to suicide.
Below are some anti-bullying resources:
• Kent Reed, the Kansas State Department of Education, at 785-296-8109
• PACER Bullying Prevention Center, 952-838-9000 or 888-248-0822
• The Kansas safe-school hot line, 877-626-8203
The 200-plus students of Eisenhower Elementary turned the brown playground across from their school into a sea of blue Monday afternoon.
“On the count of three, everybody say ‘stomp out bullying,’” Principal Trisia Reiser said. On cue, a chorus rose above the field.
The kids were asked to wear blue shirts Monday in a show of solidarity against a problem that has only grown with the advent of digital media – students being picked on by other students. This was one of several events being held across Unified School District 428 marking Oct. 3-9 as National Bullying Prevention Week.
“This is the first year we are celebrating Anti-Bullying Awareness Week,” said Mary Thurman, school counselor at Eisenhower and Lincoln elementary schools. She helped organize the event Monday.
These activities come on the heels of action taken by the Kansas Senate and Kansas State Board of Education declaring the special observation.
According to information on the KSBE’s web site, more than 160,000 American children miss school every day out of fear of attack or intimidation by other students. And, six out of 10 students report being bullied at least once a day.
Local numbers are difficult to track, Thurman said. The district conducted a survey three years ago and is currently awaiting the results of a survey done following an anti-bullying program held last spring.
“There will always be bullying,” the counselor said. “But we do see more kids reporting bullying and trying to take a stand against it. We see that a lot.”
If there has been an increase, she said, it is due to the rise of cyberbullying and the fact more cases are coming to light.
One such student taking a stand was Lexie Sexton. According to Thurman, the Eisenhower sixth grader found an anti-bullying web site which suggested wearing blue to send a message.
Thurman said Sexton went to the principal and the idea for the Monday group effort was born.
“This has become a real problem for our students due to the increased use of technology,” said Great Bend High School Principal Tim Friess. “Every school in our district (and hopefully in our Nation) will be addressing bullying behaviors in a variety of ways during this week.”
In a memo to parents and guardians, Friess said counselors and administrators have been working with teachers to get the word to the student body with how to prevent bullying in GBHS. Teachers are presenting lessons on bullying and ways to handle it.
The lesson is simple – recognize bullying, report it and refuse to let it happen and do something. Thurman said this “three ‘Rs’” concept is a easy way for students to remember what they should do.
Bullying causes real and lingering issues for those who are bullied.
Kids who are bullied are more likely to develop depression and anxiety disorders that don’t just go away at the end of the school year, said Dr. Barry Garfinkel, child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Center for Developmental Psychopharmacology in Minneapolis, Minn., and the effects can last a lifetime. In some cases, bullying can even lead to suicide.
“When kids are bullied, they really remember it,” Garfinkel said. “It results in this excessive caution and fear they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Rather than being excited about life, they are burdened with this anxiety that there are people who will hurt them emotionally and even physically.”
Education officials ask students, teachers and administrators to watch for the four types of bullying. These include verbal, physical, cyber and relational (which involves peer pressure, put downs and other abuses of a friendship).
As part of National Bullying Prevention Month in October, PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center is encouraging people to take action. This is especially important for students since studies who more than 55 percent of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes.
“Silence is not an acceptable response to bullying,” said Julie Hertzog, center director. “Adults, students and educators can no longer look away when they see bullying. People who are bullied need to know they are not alone.”
Bullying doesn’t just happen on the playground. The prevalence of online communication has changed the landscape of bullying, as it is now visible to hundreds of friends and followers on social media web sites. More than one in three young people have been victims of cyberbullying.
“Cyberbullying can be exceptionally traumatic because it can be done anonymously and way too many people can witness it,” said Dr. Read Sulik, senior vice president of behavioral health services at Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D. “Once online, it can have a lasting and devastating impact.”
With so many students affected by bullying, the center wants to help parents understand what they can do if their children are being bullied at school. Parents are encouraged to work with their children, believe what they are saying, be supportive yet patient, educate their children about bullying, and discuss ways to deal with the bullying.
“Accept your children for who they are and get involved in their lives,” said Tammy Aaberg, whose son Justin committed suicide after being bullied. “If you notice signs that they’re acting differently, ask them how things are going at school. They will probably not want to open up at first, but if you have a feeling in your gut that something is wrong, show them you care by asking questions.”
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., PACER Center is a national parent center serving all youth, with a special emphasis on children with disabilities. It is one of the sponsors of national bullying prevention efforts.