LITTLE ROCK, Ark – I started my “Step Up, Stop Bullying” campaign back in May of 2013. At the time bullying was making headlines at an alarming rate. It concerned me deeply. And as a father, and a TV News Reporter/Anchor, I knew I had to do something to try and help our youth.
Over the past five years I have been to countless schools and talked to thousands of students in elementary, middle and high school. I have no way of knowing if I’ve made an impact, but I do know this… if I get through to just one kid and make a difference, then I have done my job. Sadly, my job is far from over.
This month alone I have already scheduled seven “Step Up, Stop Bullying” appearances at various schools. That tells me teachers are seeing and feeling the impact of their students being bullied. I see it and feel it too.
My presentations are strong and to the point. I talk about the dangers of bullying and use statistics to back it up.
The harsh reality is this:
- On any given school day, 160-thousand kids across the U.S. don’t go to school because they fear they are going to be bullied.
- 1 in 5 high school students report being bullied on school property.
- Bullying is the among the most common reported discipline problems in public schools. * 12% of public schools report that bullying happens at least once a week. * Rates are highest for middle school students (22%) compared to high schools (15%).
- And 15% of high school students report being cyber-bullied in the last three years.
- Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Here in Arkansas — the number of bullying incidents reported to the Arkansas Department of Education show a growing trend. According to the ADE website — during the 2004-2005 school year there were 2,045 reported incidents of bullying.
Fast forward to the 2015-2016 school year when the number of incidents peaked — and that number skyrocketed to 6,686. That’s more than 300% increase in a span of 10 years! Last year (2017-2018), there were 5,361 reported incidents of bullying. But here’s what concerns me even more. Those are the instances of bullying that were reported.
How many went unreported?
How many kids were too afraid to tell someone? How many kids feared being called a “tattle tale” or a “snitch?” How many others thought if they did tell someone, the bully would come after them?
And then there are kids who honestly feel that no one will care or do anything.
Others fear if won’t be taken seriously and that the bullying will continue. I know this for a fact because I hear it first hand from the students themselves. I also hear heartbreaking stories from kids as young as ten-years-old about how they have considered suicide as a result of being bullied. Yes, the teachers, parents and counselors are aware and those kids are in good hands getting the help they need. But how many others are there? How many silent cries for help are out there that aren’t being heard or noticed? It breaks my heart.
I am NOT AN EXPERT in this field and I have never claimed to be one. But we as a society can’t sit on the sidelines and rely on teachers or the school districts to solve this problem.
Parents need to step up and get involved. They need to talk to their kids. Asking your child, “How was your day?” is not going to cut it. Dig deeper — ask specific questions like, “Who did you talk to today? What did you talk about? Did anything happen that made you feel uncomfortable?” You get the picture.
Parents also need to monitor their kids social media accounts. You would be shocked to see the number of hands that go up when I ask students (especially middle school) how many of them have Snapchat, Instagram or Twitter accounts. Even the teachers shake their heads. But when was the last time you actually picked up your child’s phone and searched their activity…. I mean really search it? Kids know how to bury text messages and photos. Do you know how to retrieve them?
I will continue to visit schools as long as the requests keep coming in. My hope and wish is that they will stop. Because when and if they do… maybe, just maybe we will have finally got a grip on this potentially devastating behavior. It is 100% preventable. I’m doing my part. The question I have for you is… are you doing your part?
If you want my “Step Up, Stop Bullying” program to come to your school go to www.fox16.com/bullying and fill out the form. Also — if there is a specific bullying subject you would like me to address or do some research on just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.