School bullying warning heard in Montrose
MONTROSE — Members of the state board of education along with behavioral experts Tuesday told Montrose and Olathe educators that school bullying is more prevalent outside the classroom than ever.
Bullying is defined as an aggressive imbalance of power between students, repeated over time, and it takes many forms, including verbal and nonverbal teasing, and emotional and physical aggression that can leave a child feeling helpless.
Linda Kanan of the Colorado School Safety Resource Center in Lakewood told a packed audience at the Holiday Inn Express that perceptions of bullying need to be updated because of changes in technology.
Cyber bullying, through the use of electronic devices, can allow students to distribute derogatory content more widely and can become more invasive for children who are targets for aggression.
“They don’t want to go to school, they don’t want to go on to higher education, and we begin to lose these kids,” Kanan said. “We’ve got to start on these prevention efforts before sixth grade.”
Bullying, Kanan said, can seriously affect a student’s attendance, classroom performance and physical health and in extreme cases can lead to depression and suicide.
In Colorado, 57 percent of students surveyed in grades 5 through 12 reported they had been verbally bullied, and 33 percent reported physical abuse, according to figures released by the Colorado Legacy Foundation.
“The elementary school kids are experiencing bullying at the rate of the high school kids,” Kanan said.
Sexual harassment or unwelcomed sexual behavior is associated with bullying because it makes a student feel uncomfortable, confused and scared, Kanan said.
A bill introduced into the Colorado Legislature this year would redefine bullying to include electronic practices and give educators and administrators more resources to curb abuse.
Kanan said schools should make prevention an integral and permanent part to staff training and school policy through responsive intervention and modern strategies.
School staff should not downplay children’s feelings, but should discourage online social interaction, help them to focus on school and follow up to make sure students are aware of resources that are available.
Kanan said schools with lower levels of bullying have reported higher test scores and attendance rates.