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EDITORIAL: Taking a stand against bullying

Ask any kid, and they’ll be happy to tell you: Going to school these days can be hard, stressful work.

Between classes, schoolwork, sports and other extracurricular activities, kids can find themselves torn in all different directions. Add in the social and societal constructs of being a kid or young adult, such as finding one’s circle of friends and learning to navigate within that circle, and it can be an intimidating prospect.

That’s why school-age bullying has become such a problem. Every kid longs to be liked and accepted by his or her peers. When a learning environment becomes toxic, when kids find themselves the target of cruel taunts, rumors, innuendo or physical assaults, the added daily anxiety can become too much to bear.

Bullying is an issue that affects the lives of all children, whether it’s the ones bullied, the ones responsible for the bullying or those watching it from the sidelines. The growth of the internet and social media over the past couple of decades has added a new, disturbing component to what is considered “standard” schoolyard bullying, as victims are now attacked online and through texts and instant messaging.

In short, bullying can now follow you anywhere. And the statistics are disturbing.

National statistics show that 28 percent of U.S. students in grades 6-12 have experienced some form of bullying, according to stopbullying.gov. Approximately 30 percent of youths surveyed admit to bullying a fellow classmate, and 70 percent of young people said they have witnessed bullying in their schools. Fifteen percent of students were the victim of cyberbullying, but further statistics show that for members of the LGTBQ community, that number jumps to 55 percent.

Alarming numbers, to be sure, but what can be done? As adults, parents, teachers and care providers, we all play a major role in the battle against bullying, as well as providing a safe environment for kids to learn and grow. Community involvement is also important; clubs and organizations can be vital in raising awareness of bullying and finding ways to prevent it.

That kind of involvement is now being seen locally, thanks in part to an anti-bullying campaign started recently by the Northwest College men’s soccer team. Upon learning a player had a younger sibling who had become the target of bullying, head coach Stan Rodrigues and his wife Angela brought the issue to his team. Calling the campaign #NWCCares and #2TrapperUmatter, the soccer program — along with other NWC athletes, students and staff — is working to raise awareness of bullying on social media and in local schools throughout the month of February. It is the hope of this campaign, and others like it, that bullied students and those who witness it will make their voices heard.

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