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Was your child the one of three bullied in middle or high school last school year?

Rick Wagner • Sep 30, 2018 at 8:30 AM

A national survey found that one in three middle school and high school students was bullied during the last academic year.

But what about locally?

“That’s probably about right,” said Billy Miller, Sullivan County Schools supervisor of student services.

The survey, recently reported in USA TODAY, came from the nonprofit group YouthTruth. It showed an increase from two years ago, when a YouthTruth study showed slightly more than one in four students had been bullied the past school year. 

The survey results were based on responses from more than 160,000 secondary students in 27 states, and YouthTruth officials hope the results will be a catalyst for teachers and school districts to take bullying seriously and work with students to put an end to harmful behaviors.

KEY SURVEY FINDINGS:

• Middle school students were more likely to be bullied than high school students. Nearly 40 percent of middle schoolers said they had been bullied; 27 percent of high schoolers said the same.

• Most bullying happens in person, with the majority of students saying they had been verbally harassed. However, Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said that cyberbullying on social media can have devastating consequences. In some nationally prominent cases, the victims committed suicide.

• Most students who were bullied said it was because of how they looked. Sexual orientation and race were the next highest reasons.

• Higher rates of bullying were reported at majority white schools. Black students in these schools experienced a steeper increase in bullying over last year.

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS?

The group said students who are bullied are at increased risk of depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement and dropping out of school.

“We always want to be attentive to a student’s or parent’s concerns,” Rafalowski said. Anything that makes a student uncomfortable should be reported to a teacher or building administrator, she said.

Miller said bullying can make victims become withdrawn and have changes in mood, personality or friends.

“We want them in school,” Rafalowski said of all students.

Youth and teens who are bullied also can be physically injured, experience social and emotional distress, inflict self-harm and even die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kids who bully are at increased risk of substance use, academic problems and violence later in adolescence and adulthood, the agency said.

Students at the greatest risk for mental and behavioral problems, however, are those who bully others and are bullied themselves.

WHAT CAN PARENTS AND TEACHERS DO?

Teachers can help students who were bullied by really listening to them, YouthTruth said. Further, Sullivan County’s Miller urged students and parents to report bullying to a teacher or building administrator. He said if students are unwilling or uncomfortable to report bullying, a parent should do so.

“A lot of students don’t report it because they’re afraid it will get worse,” Miller said. “So many of them try to handle it on their own.” 

Having conversations with students about their experiences with bullying and listening to them is a crucial step in stemming bullying, according to YouthTruth. Then, teachers and administrators can develop lesson plans and resources to help. For more information about bullying and how to address it, visit the stopbullying.gov website, the teacher.org website and the National Education Association online.

“We hope this data can inform conversations and support efforts to decrease bullying for all students,” YouthTruth Executive Director Jen Wilka said in a statement. “Building equitable schools means that all students feel welcome and supported.” 

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