What's being done in the fight against bullying? And, what still needs to happen to make our kids safer? We looked at this serious issue four years ago when the Highmark Foundation initiated a $100 million dollar initiative aimed at bullying prevention in Pennsylvania's schools.
Nestled in the Laurel mountains, you may not know an entire team of researchers is looking at and implementing bullying prevention programs in area schools.
Diana Schroeder, Co-Director of the HALT! Bullying Prevention Institute says, "we are the envy of the country as far as what resources we've been able to bring to bear, what results we've been able to achieve, and at the end of the day the impact that that means for the children."
Over the last five years, the Windber Research Institute has worked with 427 Pennsylvania schools, reaching 210,000 students, twice as many parents, and over 18,000 teachers.
It's a comprehensive effort, as Shroeder explains. "It does not work to just put up signs."
"This is truly about building a process in your school that is going to allow you to see more effectively the bullying that is going on, to intervene where you need to, and to build a school culture that says this isn't OK in our school, adds Schroeder.
Bullying is more than taunting or teasing.
"It's about social power. It's about the control over others and if you aren't having an audience, than you aren't sustaining that social power," as Schroeder explains it involves more than the bully and the victim.
It is also all of the kids who are standing around. In fact, most kids are the "bystanders".
With a pro-active approach involving students, teachers, administrators, and parents bullying can be reduced.
"The kids feel safer, they are less anxious about coming to school. "
Research shows in schools where this type of anti-bullying effort exists, there's been a 15% drop in reports of bullying. It helps keep kids in school. It helps reduce health costs with less doctor visits for stress-related problems - and worse - serious mental health issues. And it helps society - especially as "bullies" get older.
As Schroeder details, "Students who bully others and are unaddressed in middle or high school go on to have felony conviction rates that will be 3 or 4 of them by the time that individual is 24."