Is your child safe?

Every parent hopes their child is never involved in an incident such as the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, but these types of incidents aren’t the only safety concerns in our schools.

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Morgantown High School recently had a verbal bullying incident result in a stabbing. Many people overlook bullying as a real problem, but it’s a reality here in Morgantown.

Last week at Morgantown High School, an apparent bullying situation escalated to a stabbing. The 14-year-old who allegedly stabbed a 17-year-old acted out after the 17-year-old attacked him first. The issue is much larger than school safety—it’s an issue of bullying.

Many people dismiss bullying because they feel like it’s not an actual threat in our schools, but the fact is bullying is a reality here in Morgantown and other schools around the country.  It’s estimated that 42 percent of kids have been bullied while online with one in four being attacked verbally more than once, and 77 percent of students have admitted to being the victim of one type of bullying or another. This is a problem because bullying can threaten students’ physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact. Recently, West Virginia received a warning from the federal government about school bullying. A recent federal government survey of WV High School students found that 23 percent of students had been a victim of bullying in the last year. This is one of the highest percentages of high schoolers in the country.

“I think bullying is always a problem,” admitted Morgantown High School student Olivia VanHorn. “I, personally, have not encountered too many terrible acts of bullying, but I do know that it’s a problem every day and kids experience it often, and it sadly goes unnoticed. The first thing I think of is the stabbing incident at MHS last Wednesday. That began as bullying and obviously spiraled out of control. ”

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Many Twitter accounts such as the MHS problems account exist. Subtweeting is a form of cyberbullying whether students realize it or not.

While this most recent incident seems to be a result of verbal abuse, it’s not the only way bullying can happen at MHS. Social media is one of the fastest growing ways the world communicates, and it has given rise to the one of the fastest growing concerns among students—cyberbullying. I recently stumbled upon the @MHSproblems Twitter account. The anonymously ran account hasn’t been active since May of 2012, but some of the tweets contain some pretty harsh language, and are clearly directed at certain individuals including teachers. It’s just one example of how social media is being used to lash out at others.

“I’m absolutely stunned when I look through this Twitter account,” said VanHorn. I can’t believe that someone would actually spend time to make those tweets. I think bullying is definitely more prevalent now because of the popularity of social media. The act of “subtweeting” allows people to lash out against others who have hurt them in some way or have insulted them, so they retaliate publicly escalating the situation.”

So can we stop bullying in our schools?

Stopping bullying in schools will prove to be to be difficult, but it’s worth the fight to prevent future situations like this stabbing from happening. There are a few things schools can to do to help build a safe environment:

Assess Bullying in Your School.  You may not think bullying is a problem in your school but distributing a simple bullying survey to your students can help your institution gain some insight on how much bullying is affecting learning at your school.

Create Policies and Rules. Rules and consequences to breaking those rules can be a huge deterrent for bullies. This doesn’t always mean it will stop bullying entirely, but it does help. Morgantown High School does have bullying policies in place, and they offer a variety of helpful tips on their website for students about bullying. Ironically, there’s only a small section on bullying under the behavior section of the Monongalia County Schools Handbook. On page 26, the handbook mentions good and bad behavior. Bullying is simply listed as a type of unacceptable behavior, but the definition and consequences seem vague in the handbook.

“Schools need to build a trustworthy environment where students feel comfortable letting others know what’s happening to them,” said VanHorn. “I think one of the biggest issues with bullying is students not feeling comfortable telling others what’s going on.”

Actively Talk to Your Child About Bullying. Many children, especially older children are embarrassed by being bullied land are less likely to consult a parent or adult on the issue. Parents can be proactive by paying attention to their child’s behavior and asking questions. Additionally, parents can teach their child at a young age that violence is not the way to solve problems.

“I think it often goes unnoticed,” explained VanHorn. “Many kids who are bullied keep what’s happening to them bottled up inside and don’t feel comfortable talking to adults about what is happening to them. I think that is a huge problem. We need to make kids feel more comfortable talking to adults about what’s going on and taking steps towards getting them help.”

Bullying may never be completely eradicated, but by being proactive, the amount of bullying can definitely be reduced.

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11 thoughts on “Is your child safe?

  1. Whitney-
    I think this is a really good post. I especially like it in the capacity in which it relates to your group blog’s overall topic. I was shocked when I heard about this stabbing on the radio last week because I have lived in West Virginia my entire life, and people are constantly talking about how this state has some of the friendliest and kindest people they’ve ever met. There is a distinct difference in the way people interact (particularly between northern and southern regions of the country), and I have always valued the small-town feel that Morgantown offers despite its size. I think your links really helped to enrich the story, and I hope that school bullying does not effect WV students to the extreme that they do not uphold the tradition of being neighborly and kind to their peers. I also think this is a topic that is so prevalent in our society that you could get another post out of it- especially if you get a lot of feedback!

  2. Hi Whitney-
    I agree with Samantha, I think you did a nice job with this post. I think you maintained a nice balance between advice and a larger issue (the stabbing at MHS). It’s so scary to think about, really. When I was in high school, we were on constant lockdown for about a month because two groups of “gangs” didn’t get along. We had fights multiple times a day, to the point where our school brought in a police officer every day, around the clock. Your post really goes to show that bullying really can happen anywhere. I think often, when people hear these stories on the news, they’re so far away (Nevada, Colorado, etc), but when it hits so close to home it really brings a new perspective to a much larger issue. I know it’s hard, but I hope something can be done to curb this problem before something much worse than a stabbing (not that that situation wasn’t bad enough) happens in Morgantown. Nice job!

  3. Whitney,

    I always enjoy reading your posts because they are always backed by so much research and so many facts. This is definitely a ‘Morgantown Problem’ and a country-wide problem that needs to be addressed. Like you said, it is a lot to take on, but it is worth it if we can stop even just one incident of bullying.

    The use of a local example was a very nice intro into the true issue. I wonder what condition the stabbing victim is in.

  4. Pingback: Stop Bullying | 11hauz's Blog

  5. Your example of bullying on Twitter is pretty striking. We usually think of Facebook as the main source of cyberbullying because it’s the biggest network, but it happens on others too. I read an article for another class written by a 13-year-old girl who said she and many of her peers did not want a Facebook page because of all the drama and bullying that occurred on it. The author also mentioned liking Tumblr and Instagram for their simplicity. I wonder if the simpler platforms lend themselves to less bullying because people are just using them to share pictures. Of course, there is always a chance someone will post incriminating photos, but a Tumblr or Instagram user has to have a picture of someone to bully him or her, while a Facebook or Twitter user can say whatever he or she wants.

    The article: http://mashable.com/2013/08/11/teens-facebook/

  6. Good post connected to a current event. Try to reflect the specifics of your topic more clearly in the hed – it’s limiting the ability of your post to be found. Be careful with claims that may seem obvious to you. You write “Many people dismiss bullying,” but do you have evidence for this beyond personal experience? An unsubstantiated claim can undercut an otherwise good argument, so be sure to always back these up.

  7. I think this is a really strong post. You did a really good job of taking a current issue, like violence in schools, and making it local with MHS. I know that accounts like the one you highlighted exist in other places too, and while they may not give out specifics, they do very clearly discuss other students or teachers as the school, and the existence of things like this only take bullying to another level. You did a really good job of integrating links and outside information into your post, as well!

  8. This is a great example of a post that talks about a very current subject. You very effectively used the recent events at Morgantown High School to transition into the larger problem of bullying at large. Along with the content, your posts have an excellent layout to them. The use of photographs, embedded tweets, and on other posts maps, really add great depth to your posts and make them very enjoyable to read.

  9. Whitney,

    I thought this post was very organized and relevant to current events. Even if it’s something that was obviously reported on locally, you took it further and from a bit of a different angle. I liked all the resources you included and the format. It’s a touchy subject, and it is definitely something that needs to be addressed more. I walk to work every morning at 7am, and I have been consistently harassed by a guy and his friends, and I know they’re all high school students. It makes me really wonder what is actually being done to enforce respect in schools.

  10. I honestly was so shocked hearing about this, it was very sad and disheartening. Like Samantha stated, I love the people of WV and we have a generally “nice” reputation when it comes to how we treat people. I’m really hoping that these bullying instances stop to prevent mental and even physical harm in the future. This post is timely and very well constructed–such a strong one! You always seem to back up everything you discuss with such valid information and statistics. Keep up the good work, girl!

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