(KMVT/KSVT) — In 2017, the National Center for Education Statistics says 20 percent of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied at school during the school year.
“So we know that bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior that involves a power differential and that is repeated over time or could potentially be repeated,” said Kelsie Hendrickson, pediatric psychologist.
Research shows that bullying is among the most commonly reported discipline problems in public school.
“Helping your child find their voice,” said Sheri Cowger, principal of Rock Creek Elementary school. “Because once they are able to say ‘please don’t do that’ or ‘you’re being mean to me,’ then they are able to become having healthy relationships with people. That’s what we want.”
Once reported, schools must investigate.
“We have to get every side of the story,” Cowger said. “There’s always two sides to the story.”
This process can leave parents frustrated, confused or feeling out of the loop.
“Unfortunately even the bully has rights,” Cowger said. “It’s private. So we just have to trust the process.”
But parents can also do their part to help.
“If a parent has had a situation where they’ve been bullied, trying to normalize it,” Hendrickson said. “Saying because oftentimes kids feel like they’re the only one. That they’re the one being picked on, they’re the one being isolated, which is a very real feeling. But I think normalizing it goes a long way.”
Parents can encourage their children to be an "upstander."
“Upstander is someone who fights against bullying,” Hendrickson said. “Whether that be diverting the conversation, getting an adult or having that person who’s being bullied walk away. We really want to teach people to be an upstander.”
As school administrators tell KMVT, it’s their goal to foster learning in a safe environment.
“I never want a child coming to this school feeling scared and uncomfortable and afraid,” Cowger said.
School districts have policies in their manuals regarding expectation of behavior. Violation of those rules could result in expulsion or even repercussions with local law enforcement.