2018-09-14 / On Second Thought

South Carolina ranks 14th among top states for school bullying, reports WalletHub study

Compiled by Warren Hughes

What advice do you have for parents who children may be bullied at school?

We think it’s safe to say most people who choose to live in South Carolina love the Palmetto State, but when we’re honest, we reluctantly have to admit we regularly sink in ranks where we prefer to be at the top, and we’re often in the upper ranks for those lists where we would rather not be at all.

We also know school bullying is a serious and growing problem across the nation, so it was distressing to see in a Sept. 6 study report from WalletHub that South Carolina ranks as 14 in states with the most bullying at school. Granted, we were not in the top ten, but 14 is cause for alarm.

So, in view of such a dismal report, what can parents do? For that, we turn to the S.C. Department of Education, website ed.sc.gov (search for bullying). As for victims of bullying, it offers the following recommendations:

1. If a child experiences bullying at school, he should report it immediately to a teacher, counselor, or school administrator. The child should also tell his parents about the incident.

2. If parents discover their son or daughter is being bullied, the parents should contact the appropriate school officials (principal or assistant principal) and request an investigation.

3. If the parents are not satisfied with the principal’s course of action, they should submit a written complaint to the district superintendent’s office for further review.

4. If the parents feel they are not getting a prompt response to their concerns from the district superintendent’s office, the parents should then contact the Office of the Ombudsmen at the S.C. Department of Education, so action involving the parent and the district can be taken to hopefully resolve the parents’ concerns.

The SCDE’s ombudsman cannot take sides in the investigation. Instead, the representative will investigate the parents’ concerns, connect them with the appropriate local school district staff, and provide them with the local school district’s bullying and harassment policies if they wish to appeal their issues to the district superintendent or local board.

The SCDE provides these websites for more information: stopbullying.gov; thebullyproject.com; stopbullying.gov; violencepreventionworks.org; and apa.org.

In his report, WalletHubwriter Adam McCann interviewed among others, South Carolina expert Dr. Jan Urbanski, director of Safe and Humane Schools, Institute on Family & Neighborhood Life, Clemson University

She says, “While there is no single factor that puts a child at risk of being bullied, there are some common characteristics that may be both contributing factors and consequences of victimization. These include: withdrawn, low self-esteem, cautious, quiet, anxious, insecure, lower school achievement, absenteeism, and social isolation. She adds, “Some children are at particularly high risk of being bullied because of ways they are perceived as being different. Children with disabilities, special needs, and health problems may be at an increased risk. Other vulnerable populations include sexual minority youth, minority immigrants, and minority religious affiliations.”

To help recognize possible bullying behavior, she cautions: “Students who bully others may exhibit some of the following characteristics: positive attitude towards violence; need to dominate and subdue other students to get their own way, impulsivity; low tolerance for frustration, easily angered, lack of empathy toward students who are bullied, and are defiant and aggressive toward adults, including teachers and parents.” She said family dynamics that play a role include lack of supervision, overly-permissive and overly-harsh parenting.

“Schools themselves can also be a risk factor for bullying to occur,” she pointed out. These factors include: a lack of awareness, a nonchalant attitude, insufficient supervision, ignoring bullying behavior, or implementing inappropriate interventions. To view the full report see wallethub.com.

On another subject entirely, let’s give an appreciative word to readers who have responded to recent column topics. On the subject of phone scams Anneliese Dessart wrote to share this advice: “I have a regular phone with a screen and the possibility to leave a message. When the phone rings I go and look at the screen. If I don't recognize either name or number, I will not answer. The scammers usually do not leave a message. On my screen I see 'private caller' and/or 'not available.' I don't answer these. If I recognize at least name or number, I will answer right away. If there's a legit message, I'll call back. Spectrum customers can call Spectrum and ask them to block the annoying robot calls.”

On fuel pump scams, Clifton Chang, retiree of the New York Police Department, provided this word of caution: “Paying inside may be more vulnerable to skimming. I don't think there are many dishonest employees, but… kids look for ways to make money, some illegally.” We appreciate these readers responding. They help make the information we try to provide more worthwhile. We invite them and others to continue to do the same. We want to add to the community’s storehouse of knowledge, whether it is a neighborhood matter, a larger issue or a simple curiosity. We’ll do the footwork for you. Submit your questions to wmchughes27@gmail.com

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