• 61°

Beulah principal informs Valley Kiwanis Club about bullying

VALLEY — The bullying of children at school isn’t new. Bullies have been around a long time, and recent research shows the damage they cause continues to take place and is more complex than it once was given the presence of smartphones and social media. Research points to a continuing problem but also offers clues on how to better combat it.

Beulah High Principal Dr. Cincrystal Poythress talked about this at Wednesday’s noon hour meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley.

Poythress has been an educator for the past 16 years.

“The face of education is always changing, but one thing that has not changed since the dawn of time is that we have mean people in the world,” she said. “There are mean people in our workplace, in our stores, in our restaurants, our schools, our civic clubs, and yes, even in our churches.”

When it comes to bullying in school, Poythress said it’s important to understand what it is, the impact it has on children and how to stop it from happening.

By definition, bullying is any kind of unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-age children that involves a real, or imagined, power imbalance. It’s a kind of behavior that is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

She went on to say that there are three basic types of bullying — physical, verbal and social.

“Verbal bullying is in the form of teasing, name calling or taunting,” Poythress said. “Social bullying is relational, such as embarrassing someone in public, telling other children not to be friends with someone or leaving someone out. Physical bullying is obvious.”

Recent research shows that one-third of students who report being bullied at school say that it happens to them at least once or twice a month. Social and verbal bullying happens more to girls than it does to boys while male students are more often on the end of physical bullying.

“Statistics show that bullying occurs most often in the hallways or stairwells at school,” Poythress said. “Surprisingly, among high school students, more are bullied on school property (20 percent) than on social media (15.5 percent).”

There is a big cost being paid by bullying. Research shows that children who are bullied have poor school adjustment, have anxiety or depression, a poor self image, sleep difficulties and more stomach aches than children who do not report bullying.

“What can we do about it? What interventions have proven most effective?” asked Poythress. “Students have reported that the most effective things teachers can do is to listen to them, give them advice and check back with them to see if the bullying has stopped. Students say that the most harmful thing a teacher can do is to tell them it’s a problem they will have to take care of themselves, that they should just simply ignore it, to stop tattling about it and it’s their fault that it happened to them in the first place.”The best cure for bullying is peer intervention. Studies show that when a fellow student intervenes on their behalf more than half of bullying situations stop.

“I find this to be powerful,” Poythress said. “More than half of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes on a bullied student’s behalf. Research shows that students who experience bullying are more likely to find peer actions more beneficial than educator or self action.”

Parents, Poythress said, are the first role models for their children.

“Set a good example for them at home,” she said. “If they see you cuss and fuss they will do that, too.”