The Ottumwa Courier

Columns

October 25, 2013

Bullying IS personal

OTTUMWA —

While scrolling through Associated Press articles the last couple of weeks, a few stories have caught my attention, all with a common subject matter. It’s something I’ve considered writing about before, but the timing never seemed right. It’s something that affected me personally as a junior high student, and kids across America are still impacted. I only hope what I write and sharing a bit of my story can help one person who suffers from bullying.

Bullying is not a new topic, but from what I’ve read, it’s harder to escape from than when I was in school. I’ve been following, with sadness, the story of a 12-year-old girl in Florida who killed herself after being bullied online. The girl, according to an article by the Associated Press, “was tormented online and at school by as many as 15 girls” before she jumped to her death. She tried to escape it by being home schooled, then switching to another school. It wasn’t enough. The bullying continued online. Two girls have been charged in the case with third-degree aggravated stalking. It doesn’t undo what’s already been done, and now a young girl is gone forever and a family is suffering from an inconsolable loss. And it’s not an isolated incident. Included in the article was this finding: “In a review of news articles last month, AP found about a dozen suicides in the U.S. since October 2010 that were attributed at least in part to cyberbullying.”

Closer to home, an article by the Burlington Hawk Eye and picked up by the AP states that last year, 55 incidents of bullying were reported in the Burlington School District. Similarly sized school districts in Iowa were contacted for the number of bullying incidents reported. Ottumwa was the only respondent, with 19. The article continued on, using numbers from an earlier database that used information that was collected between 2007 and 2012 on Iowa districts’ annual Basic Educational Data Survey. In that time period, Ottumwa reported 592 incidents, 63 percent of which were founded (meaning “proven to a degree disciplinary action could be taken”). If I did the math correctly, that works out to about 373 incidents in a five-year period. That averages out to 74-75 incidents per year. I’m glad to see the number decrease last year, but 19 is still too high.

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