Schools, parents tackle problem of bullying - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Schools, parents tackle problem of bullying

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- National surveys say almost one of every three students is a victim of bullying.

Video of one student punching another in a Rushville, Indiana, school has gone viral.  The victim's mother, Nicole Thompson says, "It was very obvious it wasn't your typical, 'I'm mad at you, and I punch you once and walk away.' This is an assault. It's very physical."

Other students just watch or stand by.

Travel south to Salem, Indiana, and 14-year-old Corey Wells can relate:  "I never thought about it until it actually happened to me. And once it happened to me, I could see the big picture.  It happens to everyone, it happens every day."

At first, he ignored repeated taunts against him -- but those escalated to two physical assaults earlier this year.  He explains, "I stood up, and I said, 'I am not going to tolerate it anymore.' I'm not going to sit back and watch people be mean to other people or be mean to me, ever. And it will never happen again."

Corey Wells told his mother, Misty, who went to Salem Middle School for help.  It disciplined those responsible.

Misty Wells says, "I don't think anything's going to ever be appropriate when your kid's being bullied. I don't think a parent's ever going to feel satisfied with a punishment when it's your child."

So she pushed for more -- the next steps to try to change a culture.  Salem schools now have step-by-step procedures that define bullying and how to handle complaints.

Similar lobbying from the community group CLOUT brought about similar policies in Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville. Donna Hargens, JCPS Superintendent, says, "What we want to do is help and take care of not only the person who bullies, but the victim, but also encourage bystanders to be a part."

In both places, every school principal knows the process -- and it's supposed to "trickle down" to every staff member and student.

They define bullying generally as "repeated" emotional or physical harm, or the fear of it, in a hostile environment, whether in person or online.

The polices can foster an environment in which "it's okay to tell."  Misty Wells says, "If your kid doesn't have the voice to say or stand up for themselves, then they need to let their parents know....The victim and the bully are the only two that know the real story and what happened and all I can do is be the one to have his back."

Assistant Principal Brent Minton of Salem Middle School, explains, "If I address the issue, and it doesn't stop, let me know, so I can deal with it more."

Pictures in a school hallway show everyone wearing matching orange shirts, to promote tolerance.  Multi-colored and linking rings signed by students are another symbol across the cafeteria.

Those are only two efforts at school to prevent bullying.  Outside class, Corey and Misty Wells have organized Banding Against Bullying to raise awareness on Facebook.  Their wristbands and posts promote advice such as, "You may not like someone, but act like you do and be nice to them."

But Brent Minton says he needs more help from home: "Your child has a Facebook page. Check it. Your child has an email account, check it. Your student has a cell phone account or cell phone. Check it. Know what's going on with your child. Communicate with them, see what's happening."

JCPS Supt. Hargens says, "I think it needs to become part of the culture and the day-to-day language of the school. We want students who obviously respect each other, and a culture of respect."

Bottom line advice for anyone touched by bullying: report it -- and be persistent.  As Misty Wells says, "If you don't have your kid's back, then who's going to?"

And Corey Wells, when asked whether he's had anyone harass him lately, says, "No."

So does that tell him the process worked?  "Yes."

In Salem, Minton says he's handled fewer bullying cases so far this year.  The JCPS program is still being put into place.

Links for more information below:

JCPS bullying page also with links.

Scroll down for links in parents section.

Olweus Bullying Prevention Foundation.

Corey and Misty Wells' Facebook page for Salem anti-bullying efforts.

Louisville CLOUT community activism organization.

National anti-bullying program.

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