Bullying way too common

May 29 2012 - 9:42am

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Illustration by SHADE LEEDS/Roy High School/shadeyday@hotmail.com
Illustration by SHADE LEEDS/Roy High School/shadeyday@hotmail.com

Teens and bullying has been a big headline in newspapers and news shows since the origins of high school, but the topic has taken center stage in the last several years.

One of the scariest parts of these headlines is that bullying seems to be more heightened, more and more violent and more widespread, inspiring suicides and serious injury from coast to coast. Even here in the Top of Utah, problems with severe cases of bullying leading to suicide have been reported.

We're taking a look at this issue in TX. on three fronts: prevalence, personal stories and solutions.

PREVALENCE

Ron Wolff, superintendent for Box Elder School District and a strong advocate against bullying thorough his many years in the public education system, explained that bullying is not a new concept, nor on the increase in recent years.

"The relationship between students (has been a) pretty constant (problem)," Wolff said.

Bullying, as perceived today, has happened in schools for many decades; the only difference is that society has given it a name, he said. The increased use of social media and the Internet has also helped bring bullying to the public's attention.

Wolff also made an interesting connection that few people think of when they think of bullying: Bullying isn't a one-time incident, bullying is an ongoing, continuous cycle of "one person (using) power in a willful manner with the aim of hurting another individual repeatedly," as explained in "Bully-Proofing Your School," a 2000 book for educators.

In the Box Elder School District, most cases of bullying aren't severe enough that they end up at the superintendent's office. However, there are the three or four cases a month that do. These often include problems like physical altercations, sexual harassment and verbal threats, Wolff said.

Studies show that anywhere from 50 percent to 90 percent of America's school children, in sixth through tenth grades, are either victims of bullying or are bullies themselves, according to the website for Prevent Child Abuse Utah.

About 10 percent of children are regularly bullied, according to statistics from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. And the National Bullying Prevention Center, in Bloomington, Minn., estimates that more than 160,000 students in the United States don't go to school each day because they are afraid of being bullied.

Some teens at Bear River High School are split on their feelings about the prevalence of bullying in the public education system.

Dallin Buchanan, a member of student government at Bear River High, said, "It doesn't really happen that much at all, besides messing with friends."

Like Buchanan, some other seniors agree bullying isn't as big of a problem and say that a lot of it is "more teasing than bullying, like making fun of someone's name or talking (about them) behind their back," said Hannah Cornaby, goal keeper for the Bear River girls' soccer team.

In contrast, other teens say that bullying is a very present and damaging reality.

Alexa Williams, a cheerleader and dance Sterling Scholar, says that bullying happens "way too much! Beating someone up every day isn't the only kind of bullying (that happens in public schools). Words can and do hurt worse!"

Some teens who feel bullying is a problem agree that much of bullying happens behind closed doors, or in secret, where the majority of the society can't see what's going on.

Shaunie Owen, a member of Bear River's girls' softball team, says that, "there is bullying constantly. It might not be like pushing, shoving, or name-calling, but I think it is constantly happening."

Abby Payne is a senior at Bear River High School. When she's not singing, writing or talking a million miles an hour, you can always find her reading. Email her at wild_cherry1994@hotmail.com.

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