This article is being reprinted with permission from The Mountaineer
Students Discuss Bullying Problems at Local Schools by Caroline Klapper
While bullying and being bullied are not new issues for the children of this generation, technology and social media, such as texting and Facebook, have created new opportunities for the problem to become even worse.
Today, about one in three middle and high school students are bullied, and one out of five students in the same age group have experienced “cyberbullying,” when the Internet or other technology is used to harass someone.
Being bullied, whether directly or through cyberspace, is an experience John Scroggs believes no child should have to endure. To help bring those alarming statistics down, Scroggs volunteers with Mountain Mediation Services to present an anti-bullying class to students in schools all over Haywood County.
“We’ve been told that if we can get (the anti-bullying message) to them by the sixth grade, we can made an impression,” he said.
Scroggs said he has seen bullying escalate in recent years, especially with the use of text messaging. He said it’s so much easier for children to be mean and even downright cruel to one another if they don’t have to do it in person.
“That texting is a terrible thing, but it’s here, and we’ve got to try to deal with it,” he said.
The people who work and volunteer with Mountain Mediation Services “deal with it” by presenting bullying in an upfront, honest way as they talk to students.
Recently, the group traveled to Bethel Middle School to talk with the students there. Role playing activities and discussion questions helped the students think about bullying from all angles, including talking about what they’ve experienced, how they can prevent it and even how they can avoid becoming a bully themselves.
Often students might not realize exactly what bullying is, said case coordinator Jen Trinque. For many, the class is enlightening because they learn that bullying is more than just physically harming someone. Bullying can be physical or emotional and can have devastating consequences when someone is pushed too far.
“I want the kids to understand the consequences, especially if they continue (to bully) into adulthood,” she said, adding that one of her goals is to explain the potential cost of cyberbullying.
She tries to get across to students that putting negative things about someone on the Internet or bullying through texting is not only wrong, but it is also a quick way to get into trouble.
“Once it’s on the Internet, it’s out there forever,” she warned one class.
Although some of the discussions are about how to recognize and handle bullying, Scroggs isn’t afraid to talk about tough issues, such as a recent case in which a teenager committed suicide after continually being bullied and harassed.
“Some of these cases can lead to tragedy,” he told the students.
“We’re not asking you to be best friends with each other,” added Trinque, “but you don’t have to pick on each other.”
While the classes might not eliminate bullying in schools, Betty McRae, lead trainer and a case coordinator with Mountain Mediation, said they do help.
“You can tell from the kids’ expressions that they’re getting it,” she said. “We’ve gotten feedback from the schools that it has helped.”
At Bethel Middle School, the results of the class — if not necessarily dramatic — have been positive overall.
The school’s counselor Rosemary Houston said after last year’s anti-bullying class, she saw the effects first hand when several students came to her to resolve a problem they’d been having.
“Two girls came to me separately and said, ‘I didn’t realize what I was doing was bullying, and I feel really bad about it. Can I apologize to my friend?’” she said. “I was so impressed. This is the reason we have Mountain Mediation here because it does sink in.”