I have read with horror the recent news accounts about Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year-old Florida girl who killed herself after what authorities said was unrelenting bullying by other girls in her community.
Such high-profile stories have become all too commonplace over the past few years. In Oklahoma, we’ve had our own tragic examples of children bullied to the point of suicide.
It must stop.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. A proclamation issued earlier this month by Governor Mary Fallin declared the week of Oct. 6-12 as Bullying Prevention Week in Oklahoma, while many of our state lawmakers have worked to strengthen bullying laws.
We at the State Department of Education are similarly committed to addressing this problem. The SDE has posted bullying prevention toolkits on our website for educators. We have also compiled a robust list of resources for parents, students and others who are victims of bullying or who want to fight this social ill.
In addition, the SDE and the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services share a prevention specialist who travels throughout the state to provide training and professional development to schools. That expert can also speak to groups of parents and students about how to prevent bullying, and how and where to seek help if one is victimized by it. In addition, our Office of Counseling offers support to the many parents and educators who contact our office daily seeking help and solutions to bullying.
One issue receiving a great deal of attention these days is cyber-bullying. In the past, a bullied child might have been able to escape his or her tormenter at the end of the school day. But social media and texting have made it possible for bullying to continue unabated. That is why I encourage parents to monitor their children’s online activity, both to see if their child is being harassed or to see of their child is perhaps being a bully.
Other adults need to get involved, too. If you see, read or hear something that could be considered bullying, please speak up. Research shows that if even one student or caring adult intervenes in the life of a bullied child — offers a kind word or gesture — it might literally mean the difference between a life-and-death decision.
Bullying is a serious and frightening problem, and it’s time we all said “enough.”