There is a hidden epidemic in our school systems, both nationally and locally. The number of suicides among school children is rising, and has occurred in many Missouri schools, including Northwest Missouri.
It is estimated that 160,000 students miss school each day due to fear of being bullied. The number of student suicides has risen 50% in the last three decades according to the National Voice for Equality, Education, and Enlightenment (NVEEE).
There are three main forms of bullying: Verbal, physical, and social media. Students who are bullied grow up more socially anxious, have less self-esteem, and require more mental health treatment during their lives. The cost to society is enormous.
An area mom and three of her school-age children recently shared with me their experiences with school bullying. Two of the children were teenagers, while one was in elementary school. They attend a school in our 4-county area.
Each of the children shared their experiences with being bullied by other students. Both of the teenagers have been bullied verbally, physically, and on social media. One of the girls frequently locks herself in the restroom at school to escape being bullied. They all became emotional during the interview, and the impact on them was quite visible.
Both the mom and the teenagers reported little or no support from school personnel, and were often criticized or punished themselves. They strongly felt that preferential treatment was given to athletes and other students based on community social status. The family is currently in the process of moving to another school system in an attempt to avoid the bullying. All of the young people were obviously bright and very articulate in describing their abuse at the hands of schoolmates.
They, along with the NVEEE, feel that schools and parents need to be more involved in awareness and prevention of bullying. Schools need to recognize that there is a problem and that active intervention is required, applied in an even-handed manner.
Parents need to have frank discussions with their children. If they find their child is being bullied, they need to intervene on their child’s behalf. Parents of children who are perpetrators of bullying need to intervene strongly as well. If their child is a bully, they need to help prevent abuse of other students, and prevent their own child from problems with the legal system.
Parents need to monitor their child’s activity on social media. Most of the youth who reveal being bullied online describe the bully as being both “mean and cruel”. NVEEE reports that 75% of school shootings are linked to bullying. That is a frightening statistic.
When we see young people skipping school, locking themselves in restrooms, and even taking their own lives due to bullying, we have a societal problem. It should not be ignored by responsible adults.