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A bullseye on bullying

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on bullying as presented by Logan Junior High School staff in Princeton.

PRINCETON  As the school year begins, Logan Junior High School staff is wanting to draw attention to the potential problem of bullying in schools — what it looks like, what it isn’t, and what can be done about it.

To begin the school year, the Logan school is hosting “Rachel’s Challenge,” an anti-bullying awareness program on Sept. 18, with daytime assemblies for Logan students and Reagan Middle School students, as well as an evening meeting for parents and community members from throughout the area.

Logan Junior High School Principal J.D. Orwig and guidance counselor Jan Foehring talked about the definition of bullying, misconceptions about bullying and the impact of social media on bullying.

The definition of bullying which the school uses with students is different than what some people may think, Orwig said. The school’s formal definition of bullying is when a person or a group intimidates and threatens a person deliberately and repeatedly. Bullying can occur in person or electronically. Bullies use manipulation, threats, rumors and sometimes isolation or violation to establish power and control.

The school’s definition is a collaboration from a variety of resources, Orwig said, with some key words to note, like the words “repeated” and “power.”

Foehring agreed, saying the three most important things to remember about bullying is that it is one-sided; it is repeated; and it is all about power and control.

The very first time a conflict incident occurs, parents may see it as a bullying incident against their child, Orwig said. But by the school’s specific definition, a bullying case is a repeated incident. The repeated part of the definition is so important because it is the repetitiveness which leads to that power and control issue.

As far as the number of bullying cases at school, Orwig said that’s a hard number to determine because the vast majority of bullying cases aren’t reported. At this age level, kids don’t want to be called tattletales or narcs, and they don’t want to become even more of a target, he said.

Orwig does keep notes on reported cases of bullying and harassment at the school. Specific bullying cases are documented in student discipline files as a way of further flagging bullying cases.

In her thoughts, Foehring said she doesn’t think the number of bullying cases have increased since she was in junior high, but the way people view bullying has changed. Nowadays, people view almost any disagreement between kids as bullying, which is not the case. For instance, parents may call her and say their child is being bullied, but it turns out that both kids may have participated in the conflict, which is not bullying.

However, electronic technology has definitely brought a more mobile aspect to bullying, Foehring said. With one click, every rumor or comment can be spread so much faster than when she was a student. Through electronics and social media, some people feel an anonymous sense of power to say more or worse things than they might in person.

Also, because things can spread so quickly through electronic mediums, the targeted person can become so much more hopeless. That’s a change as well. Unless parents put limits on social media exposure, the adolescents can’t remove themselves from what is said through social media, the guidance counselor said.

Orwig agreed, saying social media has certainly increased bullying because it gives children another way to make contact with other students outside of school, often in an unstructured setting where parents/adults may not be around.

To help educate students and parents about bullying, the Princeton Elementary District has implemented a variety of programs for the various grades. Also, there are steps parents can take to help raise children who are not bullied or become bullies.

More to come: The second article in this series will focus on what can be done by schools and parents to address the issue of bullying.

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