Some school districts in the northeast Louisiana are searching for the best means of dealing with bullies.
A local school psychologist says the difficulties in solving cyber-bullying are a major problem.
And students’ lives may depend on school districts’ ability to find answers.
On February 7, the Monroe City School district passed on the expenditure of Andre Lewis’ book “No More Bullies.”
Members cited the presence of effective anti-bullying programs within schools as a reason for turning it down.
Board member Vickie Krutzer listed plans that the district already uses to combat bullying, such as the YMCA’s Positive Action initiative and other anti-bullying programs
But according to some, bullying remains a big problem.
The district’s 21st Century Community Learning Center Project Director, Patricia Johnson, says bullying is constant.
“I hear about it all the time. I hear about it from the principals, I hear about it from the children at school, I hear about it from children at my church, who say that they’re afraid to go to school; they’re bullied. And I also hear about it from the other side – from the ones that are bullies. You know, about what they’re going to go to school to do. So it’s a lot. It’s reality.”
Of course the days of students having to worry about only face-to-face encounters with bullies are long over.
Flint Smith is a school psychologist for Ouachita Parish Schools. He says online bullying is rampant.
“Eighty-percent of high school seniors, who’ve been on a social network, report that at least one time they’ve seen somebody say something on there that they would identify as bullying; a very disparaging remark. Cyber-bullying is very difficult to measure of course, and easy to do.”
Smith says students are reluctant to seek help.
“Over half of adolescents say they’ve been bullied online or they’ve witnessed it. About 25% have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or Internet – that’s interviewing kids. Well over half of those did not tell their parents when it occurred. One of the motivations for that is to not lose the device that they communicate with. I’ve had many students tell me, ‘if I tell my parents I’m talking to this student, they’ll take my phone, or if I tell them I’m going to this site, they’ll take my phone or Internet.”
This can have dire consequences.
“The more risk factors, the more dangerous the situation. And for an at-risk youth, or group of youths, bullying can be major component for them that can be a precipitating event that pushes them toward that type of ideation and thinking. So, everything that I’ve looked at indicates that – high level of cyber-bullying because it’s so easy to access without it being monitored. There have been several cases that have gotten national media that indicate that bullying, cyber-bullying in particular was a component in that child’s eventual suicide.”
The Ouachita Parish School district has had to deal with a spate of student suicides.
Over the past two school years, seven students in the parish have taken their own lives – the most recent being in September of 2011.
Superintendent Bob Webber says that there appear to have been few common threads in the deaths.
And cyber-bullying does not appear to have been a cause in any of the cases.
Still, the Superintendent says that cyber-bullying is a regular occurrence among students in his district.