Education Department sends out warnings

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – School yard bullies have been finding new ways to harm their victims with social media. Bullies target their victims through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, which is difficult for schools to patrol and enforce. Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education sent out warning letters to schools, colleges and universities across the country regarding bullying, in light of several high-profile cases.

"Bullying is one of those things that usually is done when a teacher is not around. It's done in areas where there really is nobody there except the bully and the one that's being bullied," said Darrel Dover, Principal of the Nettleton High School. "Unfortunately this is one of those things that sometimes it's not easily recognized and usually the bullies are smart enough not to do it right in front of the faculty or administration."

Dover said cyber-bullying is becoming a more harmful problem. Many times the victim never sees his/her assailant. According to the U.S. Department of Education, cyber-bullying and physical bullying are increasing.

"Even though those things happen outside the school parameters, they usually end up coming back to school in some form or fashion," said Dover.

According to Dover, the school has had more cyber-bullying problems than physical; however, the district hasn't had near the number of problems as other schools across the country.

According to a study performed by the Ethics of American Youth Survey by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, more than half of U.S. high school students said they have been bullied at least once in the last year. The survey suggested 52% of students have hit someone in anger over the last year. It also found some 60% of students admitted to cheating on a test. 27% of students said they have stolen something from a store.

"It's definitely alarming and we would be proactive before we would sit back and let it get this large. We would intervene," said Amanda Waln.

Waln works with sophomore and junior students at Nettleton. She said she provides counseling services for nearly 440 students.

"We deal with anything from social problems at school, grades, credits, am I on track to graduate, things that go on inside the classroom. I'm having a conflict with this teacher or with this student," said Waln. "When a student comes to me and says, I feel like I've been bullied. We talk to that student and then we go to the other side and say, hey do you know what a bully is? Well the students know. Well this is the situation. If you were put on the other side of that situation, how would you feel?"

According to Waln, parents need to learn how to determine if their child is being bullied or is bullying someone.

"If your child is acting like they may be depressed, they may be nervous. There may be something going on that you're not aware of," said Waln.

Dover said another problem is that victims of bullying do not often report the incident for fear of retaliation.

"If we have a situation where a student is doing that, obviously we call them in. We get our counselors. We get our support staff in here. We talk about what they're doing, why they're doing it and how inappropriate it is," said Dover. "We want to find out why it's happening and once you find out the why, then you can set a course in trying to fix that individual and try to help that person understand that what they're doing is wrong."

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