GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A new school year means a fresh start for teachers and students across West Michigan.
It takes a few days to get the routine back in place, but there are other issues on the top of everyone’s minds. A major one is bullying – and it’s not just school district’s working to stop it.
The National Bullying Prevention Center says more than 60 percent of students who were bullied last year didn’t report it, which is something one organization in West Michigan wants to change.
They say now is the time to talk to kids about the issue.
Nearly one in three students reported being bullied last school year, according to the Center for Educational Statistics.
Sheri Munsell, a victim of bullying herself, created the organization “End Bullying, Save Lives” to educate parents and students on bullying and how to handle it.
“Bullying certainly has long-term mental effects,” she says. “It can cause depression. It can cause things like dropping out of school and not paying attention in school. Your child`s grades can drop.”
Depression, anxiety, and academic problems are just some adverse effects of bullying. Experts say there’s a strong association between bullying and suicide-related behaviors.
To stop it, they say communication is key.
Munsell says to tell your kids to “find somebody to talk to and don’t be afraid to go speak with an adult about what’s happening to them.”
She says keep kids active and involved in school activities, know who their friends are, and watch their online presence. If you notice they have trouble with confidence or making new friends, get them involved in extracurricular activities.
Watch for major changes in behavior and take their concerns seriously.
“Address it immediately. Take bullying seriously,” she says.
Munsell says bullying is not something that’s a rite of passage. She says it’s not something all children do and it’s not something that we should overlook because we think that the one child is weak and another child is being strong.
Experts say it’s important to teach your kids to stand up for victims of bullying to break the cycle. They also say it’s just as important to be aware of your child being the bully, noting there are major long-term psychological effects on the kids who are causing the issues as well.