The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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August 23, 2013

Event shines light on ending bullying

CLINTON — She may be the new girl in school who doesn't dress like the rest of them, the boy who wears thick glasses or the child with a learning disability.

Tall or short, overweight or thin, considered too smart or not smart enough — it doesn't matter what the reason is when a bully decides to use it as an excuse to target someone day in and day out.

It can be as blatant as a punch that is thrown or as quiet and secretive as being left out of a group intentionally time after time. It could be verbal, physical or social in nature.

"But kids will be kids," some will say.

"Everyone is bullied at some point," others may respond.

"My kid didn't mean it."

"It was all in fun."

Whatever form it takes, bullying is a way for the person who is doing it to feel as if they have some semblance of power, maybe as a way to keep their popularity up or to increase their own low self-esteem.

No matter what the reasons, one thing is for sure: It is widespread.

According to stopbullying.gov — a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — there are two sources of federally collected data on youth bullying: The 2011Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicates that nationwide 20 percent of students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying, and the 2008–2009 School Crime Supplement. That data, from the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, states that nationwide 28 percent of students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying.

That's a lot of students who are living in fear each day as they get on the bus, sit in class, spend time on the playground and walk home from school. It can lead to mental illness, substance abuse, health complaints and reduced student achievement.

It has to stop.

That's why we want to congratulate Rita Walton, who spearheaded Clinton's first Anti-Bullying Glow Walk on Aug. 16. Hundreds turned out at Eagle Point Park to show their support to stop bullying and make people aware of the damage it does.

That message is so important and is one we hope is being taken to heart by those who bully, and makes people wake up to the bullying that may be going on around them so they can stop or, better yet, prevent it — both among children and adults who face bullying in the workplace.

Walton's work is in line with the idea that community members can use their unique strengths and skills to prevent bullying wherever it occurs. According to stopbullying.com, youth sports groups can train coaches to prevent bullying. Local businesses can make T-shirts with bullying prevention slogans for an event. After-care staff may read books about bullying to kids and discuss them. Hearing anti-bullying messages from the different adults in their lives can reinforce the message for kids that bullying is unacceptable, the site explains.

So let's build on the message of the recent glow walk — one in which the bullying stops, we treat each other with respect and live without fear.

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