October is National Bullying Prevention Month
October 18, 2017
We all know a bully.
In Montana, 1 in every 4 students is bullied on school property each year. In Glasgow, that number jumps to 1 in every 2.5 students (2015 YRBS Survey Data). According to the CDC, in 2015 15.5 percent of all US students were electronically bullied (cyberbullied). In Montana, that number increased to 18.5 percent. When Glasgow High School was reviewed, that number climbed to 29.11 percent.
Whether in person or electronically, our Glasgow youth are bullied at a rate that is consistently at least 1.5 times the Montana average (2015 YRBS Survey Data).
A generation ago we did not have such complex bullying issues. We were potentially bullied and harassed at school, but for the majority of youth, we could go home at the end of the day and be in a safe place. Today’s students are bombarded 24/7 with images and requests and communication from those who support them and those who do not. There is no escape, no down time and certainly no safe haven from the noise. We have a responsibility to provide the best foundation possible for our youth. We need to prepare them for the world ahead by setting healthy examples and giving them the tools necessary for success.
As our technology culture evolves so too have school and legal arenas had to adjust for inappropriate behaviors. Gone is the time when escape from harassment and bullying came at home. Today we have to recognize that if our youth and harassed individuals cannot find safety from these issues, there are legal resources available at their disposal.
The “Bully-Free Montana Act” was signed into law in Montana in 2015 to legally identify bullying in schools, and it includes cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is commonly defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones and other electronic devices.”
Outside of a classroom setting, there is a criminal statute written in Montana known as “Privacy in Communications” prohibiting harassment via electronic means: “a person commits the offense of violating privacy in communications if the person knowingly or purposely: (a) with the purpose to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy, or offend, communicates with a person by electronic communication and uses obscene, lewd, or profane language, suggests a lewd or lascivious act, or threatens to inflict injury or physical harm to the person or property of the person. The use of obscene, lewd, or profane language or the making of a threat or lewd or lascivious suggestions is prima facie evidence of an intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy, or offend.”
Only by setting a bold mark for our countywide intolerance for bullying behaviors, our recognition of the role that bullying plays in the health and wellness of our youth, and our commitment to changing our regional narrative on this issue will we effect the change that our students so greatly deserve.
The challenges in bringing about any social change are tremendous. Working to change the attitudes and established procedures and order of business for a county that is 5,062 square miles of northeastern Montana prairie and badlands adds a daunting level of logistical challenges as well. This is an issue that needs to be owned and addressed by each of us at every level. Our children are worth it.