Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Conway Urges Parents, Students and Educators to Help Fight Bullying
With school back in session, Attorney General Jack Conway, the Kentucky Center for School Safety and the Kentucky Suicide Prevention Group are urging Kentucky students, parents and educators to help fight bullying and harassment at school and online.
"Each day, 160,000 students across the country will miss school for fear of being bullied," General Conway said. "With the growth of online social networking, cyberbullying has become one of the most prevalent types of bullying that occurs between teens. By recognizing the signs of bullying and taking action, we can stop a problem that is fueling youth violence and suicides across the Commonwealth and the country."
More than 50 percent of all American teens have been a victim of cyberbullying, according to the National Crime Prevention Association. Most never report the bullying.
"Since most bullying takes place behind the backs of teachers and parents or, now, electronically, it is very frustrating to know that most bullying victims never tell an adult or teacher," said Jon Akers, Executive Director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety. "This enables the bullying to continue and the consequences can be devastating."
According to the Kentucky Department of Education, there were 6,076 incidents of bullying, felony stalking, harassment or verbal abuse during the 2011-12 school year that resulted in an expulsion, out- of- school suspension or corporal punishment.
Karen McCuiston, Director of the Resource Center at the Kentucky Center for School Safety, says the anonymity and immediacy of computers and mobile devices make cyberbullying easy. She says it has become a matter of life and death.
"Approximately 25 students a year take their own lives because they are harassed, because they are cyberbullied so much that they can't take another day so they take their lives. This is curable; it's not cancer. It's just words, but they are killing our kids," said McCuiston.
Kentucky is among 49 states with anti-bullying laws. In 2009, Attorney General Conway worked with state lawmakers and concerned parents, like Mark Neblett, whose daughter, Rachel, committed suicide after being stalked and harassed online, to win passage of comprehensive cybercrimes legislation. The legislation amended Kentucky's stalking statute to include the crime of cyberstalking and helped modernize state laws relating to crimes that occur online.
"The effects of bullying, whether it is at school or online, can be devastating," said Jan Ulrich, Kentucky's Suicide Prevention Coordinator. "Research has shown that both victims and perpetrators of bullying, including physical violence, injury and cyberbullying, are at a higher risk for depression and suicide than their peers. The long term effects of bullying on behavioral health and suicide risk can last into adulthood."
Ulrich says a young person who is being bullied is often already dealing with depression or anxiety. Parents are encouraged to seek help for their child if they notice a decline in their child's academic performance; they lose interest in socializing; show aggression or violence toward others or have suicidal thoughts.
Attorney General Conway, the Kentucky Center for School Safety and State Suicide Prevention Group have the following tips to prevent cyberbullying and cyberharassment.
- Tell a trusted adult if you have been bullied, cyberbullied or harassed.
- Don't open messages from people you don't know.
- Don't react to the bully or respond to harassing e-mails or posts.
- Block the bully from sending you e-mail or posting to your social networking account.
- If you are threatened, inform the police.
- Don't email when you are angry and never post "questionable" pictures of others.
- Strongly encourage your child not to respond to cyberbullying.
- Try to identify the individual doing the cyberbullying and do not erase messages and pictures.
- Contact your child's school if the cyberbullying is occurring through school.
- Contact police if cyberbullying involves threats of violence, extortion, obscene or harassing phone calls, harassment, stalking or hate crimes.
- Monitor your child's online activities and discuss what is appropriate to post online.
- Educate your students, teachers and staff about cyberbullying and its dangers.
- Make sure your school's anti-bullying rules and policies address cyberbullying.
- Investigate reports of cyberbullying immediately.
- Monitor students' use of computers at school.
- Notify the police if the known or suspected cyberbullying involves a threat.
After hearing from concerned parents, school officials and community leaders across Kentucky, General Conway led a nationwide effort in 2010 to improve consumer protections and address abuses on the Internet message board website Topix.com. With the support of 34 attorneys general, an agreement was reached with Topix.com to eliminate the website's $19.99 fee for a "priority review" of abusive or inappropriate posts. Today, all reports of abuse on Topix are reviewed and removed free of charge. Inappropriate posts that aren't removed from Topix in a timely manner can be reported to firstname.lastname@example.org .
For more information, visit the Attorney General's cyberbullying page at http://ag.ky.gov/cybersafety/cyberbullying.htm or the Kentucky Center for School Safety's website at https://www.kycss.org/cyberbullying.php . "Bullying: Be Part of the Cure" is the theme for Kentucky Safe Schools Week Oct. 21-27, 2012. To learn more, visit http://www.kycss.org/ssw.php .
For more information on suicide prevention efforts and resources available in Kentucky, visit http://www.kentuckysuicideprevention.org/ or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Your call will be routed to the Lifeline center closest to your area code.
To report cyber abuse, call the CyberTipline at 1-800-843-5678.