New Day; Same Story…Maybe

It happens on the bus, it happens in the hallways, and now it even happens on the computer, or through a quick message on the phone: Bullying.

With the advent of new technology, cyber bullying is a growing concern. But the typical shoves, comments or looks can lead to more serious mental health problems in the future. So students, administrators and researchers are doing something about it.

At Hill Middle School, it was an anti-bullying video.

The almost four minute PSA, set to Rascal Flatt’s song, “Stand,” addresses common bullying situations. But this time, with different positive outcomes.

“It helped show people what other people go through, and probably made them realize it’s really wrong to let your emotions out on other people,” said Lina Saleh, one of the 54 eighth graders that made the video.

The students made the video as part of an assignment in Mrs. Piccinini’s mixed media class. The students chose the idea, and then conducted research of bullying in Hill.

Their survey showed that one in four students at Hill had been hit or kicked, and one in three had admitted to spreading rumors and teasing others.

One student, Kevin Sneed, shared his bullying stories with us.

“Some people hit me in the back of my neck, or like to play around and slap, some people like to touch my chest,” said Sneed.

To keep situations like this under control and have it become an open discussion, and not a painful secret, the state of Illinois made social and emotional learning a curriculum requirement five years ago.

The students learn how to share their feelings, work on interpersonal relationships, proper communication and standingup for themselves.

And though schools have implemented these measures into daily classes, researchers like Dr. Keith Avery feel that there needs to be a more pro-active approach.

Dr. Avery is a Clinical Psychologist at North Central College and has spent more than 10 years researching bullying. He finds regular assessment is the key to bully prevention.

“Every child deserves a safe learning environment and schools need to have processes, procedures and data to track and promote a safe learning environment,” he said.

He founded the “Social and Emotional Learning School,” and his method focuses on private online assessments. In these, students, teachers and even bus drivers fill out a questionnaire about bullying behaviors. With this information he provides the school with possible culprits and ways to reduce incidents.

“With a lot of focus and follow up, you see a reduction,” said Avery.

But students like Kevin Sneed still fear the worst.

“I think bullying is going to be around a long time, and there are a lot of different types of bullying and I think most of them will go away, but I think there’ll always be some form of bullying,” said Sneed.

But administrators and students hope to make more videos and make bullying an open discussion, and to one day replace it with friendships.

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