A 2001 study found almost 30 percent of U.S. teens were either bullied or had been bullies. Another study found a whopping 88 percent of junior and senior high students witnessed bullying in their schools.
Comments from students at Robinson Middle School would seem to support the numbers. One seventh grader says he hears yelling and sees pushing and shoving in the halls. Another says she's seen kids get stuffed in lockers.
As more school shootings and other violence are traced to bullying schools are fighting back. Robinson Counselor Janet Mitchell says it's no secret bullying still happens in schools. Robinson has started a program to raise awareness of the problem. Students learn ways to handle bullying and face consequences if they exhibit bullying behavior.
At face value, Mitchell says it's a simple life lesson. She says in society and in the workplace, those behaviors are not going to be tolerated, so students need to learn to interact with people without offending them.
Stormont-Vail West psychologist Dr. Taylor Porter says bullying goes beyond social skills. He says it can ruin a child's experience at school and have a major negative effect on their life. If it goes unchecked, he says, it can contribute to great emotional problems.
Porter says it's good schools are encouraging kids to speak up about bullying. If a child stays quiet, parents can be on the lookout for signs they may need to ask their child about it. He says parents may notice that a child is unhappy when they come home from school or getting a stomachache so they can stay home..
If you find out your child is the bully, Porter says you need to find out why. He says most bullies are bullies because they're troubled or have an unhappiness. He says bullying can give them a thrill or a sense of competence or importance.
These days, experts may have a few things to learn about bullying, too. The latest approach is high-tech, with rumors, harassment, even threats made on web sites and thru emails. One Robinson student says she's seen nasty comments made on myspace.com.
Mitchell says it may be that the online approach isn't real to young people. She says they write things on the computer they wouldn't normally say to people because it's "out there." She says when she's printed it out on paper and shown it to a student, they can't believe they actually made the comments.
But by bringing the lessons back to earth, Mitchell says Robinson has seen bullying reports go down, and kids seem to be getting the message. One says bullying isn't a good way to spend time because it hurts people. Another said it plain and simple -- "It's not right to bully no matter who you are."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a web site with games and videos, offering helpful information about bullying. You can find it at http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/index.asp. You'll also find information from the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, www.safeyouth.org/scripts/teens/bullying.asp.