NORTHWEST ARKANSAS — Arkansas ranks second in the nation for bulling, according to a new study done by WalletHub. Many districts in the Northwest Arkansas area believe they can overcome the problem by fostering a culture of respect and tolerance.
“Depression, anxiety, increased substance abuse, even in worst case scenarios, suicidal thoughts or behaviors,” said Dr. Lance Foster, a child psychiatrist.
Foster said bullying can have long term effects on children’s mental health.
“They may be isolating more, they may change their sleep patterns or their eating pattens, their grades may drop,” Foster explained.
“It can go from classic name calling to being very very vicious and mean,” said high school senior Mason Phipps.
Phipps and fellow senior, Malak Bayyari, said the nature of bullying has changed, moving out of the classroom and into cyberspace.
“There’s not a lot of physical contact with bullying, it’s more of like I can hide behind this screen and say whatever I want,” Bayyari said.
“It makes it easier for behind the scenes bullying,” said Shannon Tisher, the principal at The Don Tyson School of Innovation in Springdale.
Tisher believes building connections between students and faculty is the best way to combat bullying online.
“The stronger the relationships are, the more accepting students are of each other and if they feel that they have trusted adults that they can go to, it minimizes all of those situations,” Tisher said.
But fostering an inclusive school culture doesn’t have to start in high school. Fourth graders at Holcomb Elementary in Fayetteville are already learning how to treat their fellow students.
“They’ve taught me to be respectful, responsible and safe,” said fourth grader Jack Leonard.
And how to stand up to bullies.
“Even if your playing a game you don’t want to push them or make them upset,” said Caroline Fosu, another fourth grader.
“I would say please stop you could hurt someone,” said Sarah Rainer, who is also in fourth grade.
“When you hear a student say to another student, hey it’s not okay to treat someone like that, we don’t do that here, that’s when you know you have a great culture,” Tisher explained.
For more information about what to do if you believe your child is being bullied, click here.