Monday, October 20, 2014

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Community works around the clock to stop bullying

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TWC News: Community works around the clock to stop bullying
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At the bus stop, in school hallways and even on the Internet, children are bullied every day.

Parents and students agree something needs to be done, but it takes an entire community to put a stop to bullying.

“My son was horribly bullied and harassed in the Leander school district from kindergarten to the fourth grade,” parent Lisa Loe said.

Loe’s son has autism and bullies saw him as an easy target. By the time Loe realized what was going on, the bullying had gotten to the level of sexual assault and that’s when they pulled him out of public school.

“Now I realize that nationwide, bullies are younger and younger,” she said.

Loe said she doesn’t have all of the answers to the bullying problem, but says she thinks it starts with awareness.

“I think schools should have classes on tolerance and kindness for everyone. I think that would help teach tolerance,” she said.

Tolerance and respect are two things Audrey Rose says peers at her school need to learn. Rose is a Round Rock high school student and intern at the Anti-Defamation League in Austin. She said she witnesses bullying almost every day and wants it to stop.

“You walk down the hallway and hear racial slurs or I guess incredibly mean and hurtful stuff, targeted at people who are different,” Rose said.

Onlookers do nothing, only making the problem worse, but Rose doesn’t just want to
stand idly by. She’s working to implement a program called "No Place for Hate."

“I really want to change the schools and make it a better place for everyone,” she said.

No Place for Hate is an anti-bullying program in more than 200 schools around Central Texas. The program provides educators and students resources to make anti-bias and diversity education a part of the curriculum.

At the end of the day, thousands of parents send their kids to school.

“If kids go to school and don’t feel safe, they’re not going to be able to learn. If kids go to school and are emotionally traumatized, it’s going to have lasting effects on that individual and the society,” Community Director for the Anti-Defamation League Karen Gross said.

It’s not just during school when victims encounter torment. They also encounter it through social media.

“A student can be photographed, put on Facebook for the entire world to see, then by the end of the day, they can see that 20 to 40 of their peers have commented on a picture in a negative way,” Gross said.

The Anti-Defamation League created CyberALLY, a cyberbullying training model for middle and high school students. Programs like these are important, but continuing to engage and enforce them is key along with communication among parents, students and educators.

“I hope this wave of bullying programs starts making a difference. There really needs to be positive change made,” Loe said.

Loe and other parents are suing the Leander Independent School District for not doing enough to protect their children. Her son now attends private school where she says bullying is not an issue. She hopes all schools arrive through awareness and education.

If you’re worried about your child being a victim of bullying, look for signs including declining grades, loss of desire to go to school, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, unexplained injuries or feelings of helplessness and depression.

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