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Bullying on the rise

Bullying has come a long way since swirlies, wedgies and demands for milk money.
Most people dismiss bullying among kids as a normal part of growing up. But bullying is harmful and can lead children and teenagers to feel tense and afraid. It may lead them to avoid school. In severe cases, teens who are bullied may feel they need to take drastic measures or react violently.
Bullying in the 21st century, including the newest avenue to inflict power over others, cyberbullying, can lead to depression, deadly violence and even suicide.
‘Bullying has always existed, but there is a heightened sense of awareness due to modern technology,’ Steve Morris, superintendent of Lanesville Community schools and principal of Lanesville Junior-Senior High School, said. ‘The biggest change has been the impact of text messaging, cell phone usage and Internet usage through social network sites such as MySpace or Facebook. I have dealt with numerous cases where bullying, threatening or harassing behavior originated outside of school through these technological means but it was brought into the school as a follow-up.’
South Harrison Community School Corp. Superintendent Dr. Neyland Clark said he’s seen a dramatic spike in cyberbullying, especially with the advent of Facebook.
‘It’s probably a 500-percent increase in the past five years,’ Clark said. ‘The problem is most of the stuff is going on outside of the school building and then it’s brought into the school and then there’s a fight. Even kids who don’t have computers at home still access Facebook through their mobile phones, and they communicate that way.
‘We can’t control the students when they are at home, so we have to rely on parent or guardian support,’ he said. ‘When they are in our building, however, we try to be as pro-active as we can in addressing an issue.’
Indiana has laws against bullying, which is defined in the Indiana Code as overt, repeated acts or gestures, including: verbal or written communications transmitted; physical acts committed; or any other behaviors committed; by a student or group of students against another student with the intent to harass, ridicule, humiliate, intimidate or harm the other student.
The law also states that students may be suspended or expelled for engaging in bullying off school grounds if the unlawful activity ‘may reasonably be considered to be an interference with school purposes or an educational function; or the student’s removal is necessary to restore order or protect persons on school property.’ This includes weekends, holidays, other school breaks and the summer period when a student may not be attending classes or other school functions.
Clemson University issued a two-year study from researchers who surveyed more than 524,000 students at 1,593 schools across the country to get a better grasp on bullying from students in grades three through 12.
Researchers found that 17 percent of students reported on anonymous questionnaires that they were being bullied two to three times a month or more. Of those bullied, a similar number of girls (39 percent) and boys (45 percent) said it had been going on for more than a year.
While the survey found that the number of kids being bullied went down as kids got older, the ones who were bullied in high school were the ones who had been tormented for years on end. The survey also showed that kids become more tolerant of bullying as they grow older. While fewer than 10 percent of boys in grades three through five say they would join in bullying a kid they don’t like, 35 percent of the older kids say they would.
When asked what they feel when they see a student their age being bullied, the vast majority of students (83 percent) indicated that they feel sorry for the bullied student (90 percent girls; 75 percent boys), but only 35 percent of girls and 29 percent of boys said they would help the bullied student.
For more information about understanding bullying or how to prevent it, visit stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov.
Officer’s poem sums up bullying
Bullying isn’t funny, cool or a game.
It’s mean, hurtful and a shame.
It does so much more than make someone cry
Just try and look at the pain in their eye
It’s your words that cut deep like a knife
That could cause someone to take their life
Try and put yourself in their place
Would it be funny if people said hurtful things to your face
What if it were your sister or brother
Please stop doing it to each other
So next time you see someone not quite the same
Remember your words can be really lame
Bullying isn’t funny, cool or a game.
It’s mean, hurtful and a shame.

‘ Officer Anthony Mills
Harrison County Sheriff’s Department

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