Bullying is the topic of a discussion mostly every parent has with their child before the beginning of a new school year, and while it is a topic that may not be the easiest to discuss, experts say it is an important one to confront head-on especially with younger students.
While both local school systems have bullying policies in place, it still takes that brave student to take the first step and report an issue with bullying.
“Bullying is a lot different today than it was years ago and it keeps going, unfortunately,” explained Sampson County Schools superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker. “Now you have issues not only in school, but you have the cyberbullying that gets into a gray area. There are just so many different variations of it, and with the way technology is today, it is not happening just in schools.”
“No one should have to be subjected to bullying,” agrees Clinton City Schools superintendent Stuart Blount, “students or adults. There are all kinds of bullying unfortunately and we don’t take it lightly.”
Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal and physical.
The victims left in a bully’s wake could bear the scars for years, while taking a toll on their home life, school work, friendships and personality. According to Equality North Carolina, children who are bullied are more likely to feel anxious, insecure, have low self esteem and experience depression. Over 10 percent of bullying victims have skipped school specifically to avoid being bullied and, sadly, victims of bullying and harassment are far more likely than non-bullied peers to attempt or commit suicide.
People who bully also have their own issues to deal with.
Statistics show that children who bully are more likely to develop conduct disorders, more likely to bring a weapon to school and less likely to succeed academically. In fact, over 60 percent of children who bully were found to have at least one criminal conviction by the age of 24.
For years, school system officials have been working to get the word out about how serious they are about having safe schools.
In both Clinton City and Sampson County School systems, most schools have drop boxes, where students who witness or are victims of bullying can anonymously write down what they saw and who was bullying. Both systems also have been proactive by hosting bullying workshops each year that create an environment where students, parents, educators and school officials can talk openly about the issues associated with bullying.
“All of our administrators have an open door policy to talk with students and parents about bullying,” notes Blount. “We try to be proactive by developing strategies, one being the drop boxes, the other being able to go online and reporting an incident as well. We take it very seriously and we track everything that comes in and follow up on it.”
“When a kid is afraid to come to school because he or she is getting bullied, to me, that is as bad as it can get,” he said. “That is why it is important for us to host bullying sessions in each of our districts. We have those sessions as parent nights so we can get out as much information as possible. Some of the cases are worse than others, so to get parents to come in and show their support, it really does help. We get the children for seven hours a day and we do need the help. The more parents we can get involved, the better it will be.”
Although reporting options are available in school, bullying in 2012 doesn’t have to be through face-to-face interaction.
“It has varied over the past 10, 15 years,” Lenker noted. “It is just not in school, we do all we can, but if a kid is being bullied, a parent has to know what signs to look for, because a lot of times, they might know even know it is happening.”
“I have had previous experiences where students would find an educator they trust and let them know they are being bullied,” added Blount. “For a lot of children, it is difficult to take that first step and tell their parent or teacher that they are being bullied. But it is a very important first step, because we can address the situation once we find out about it.”
Under North Carolina Law, bullying is considered as “any pattern of gestures or written, electronic, or verbal communications, or any physical act or any threatening communication, that takes place on school property reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic … or more of these characteristics.”
Bullying may include, but is not limited to, verbal taunts, name-calling and put-downs, extortion of money or possessions, and implied or stated threats.
Both Lenker and Blount say that every bullying compliant that is turned in will be investigated in a way to protect students from unfair and unfounded accusations, as well as to maintain the confidentiality of the parties involved.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.