Dozens of law enforcement officers and educators came together in New Hanover County Friday to discuss how to keep schools safe for students.
During the School Violence Prevention and Response Symposium, officers and educators talked about everything from mental health to school shootings.
When it comes to mental health, educators and officers went over how to identify students that might be dealing with illnesses and how to help them. They also discussed how to stop bullying and what causes it.
Officials said in North Carolina, 42 percent of middle school students have been bullied and 20 percent of high school students.
Speaker William Lassiter, the Deputy Commissioner for Juvenile Justice, said both educators and those in the community need to intervene early when they see any signs of bullying.
“If you see bullying behavior it's probably happening when you are not seeing it so take the day to actually intervene in those behaviors,” said Lassiter. “We cannot just let it slip by because every time we let it slip by we are sending a powerful message to that bully that we think that behavior is acceptable.”
Lassiter also said parents have an important role in stopping bullying, “as a parent, you ask your child everyday ‘What happened today that was good at school?' ‘What happened that was bad?' You need to find out if they are being bullied because a lot of times they are not going to tell you and they are not going to go to a teacher for help so we need to be there as parents to find out what is going on.”
He said if bullying is identified, it's not just the bullies that need attention, the victims, or targets, need just as much help.
“The services that we often put in place for bullying behavior focus just on the bully, when the reality is the kid that is a target of that bullying behavior needs just as much help, if not more help than the bully themselves,” said Lassiter.
He said educators, parents and community members need to intervene early when they first start to see bullying behaviors, such as 'put downs' or ‘trash talk' so those behaviors do not escalate.
“The U.S. Secret Service actually did a study and looked at victims of bullying behavior, and 75 percent of those school shootings were caused by young people who felt like they were being bullied at school, that's why they took the behavior that they took. It's very important to intervene with kids that are being bullied so that we can prevent that from occurring,” said Lassiter. “Also, with the kids that are bullies themselves what we find is that they are much more likely to be involved in criminal behavior, in fact 60 percent of kids identified [as bullies] in kindergarten and 3rd grade are later convicted of crime, and 40 percent of them become habitual offenders later in life. We have to intervene early so we can prevent that from happening in the future.”
When it comes to bullying, New Hanover County School officials say they have policies in place. Judy Stubblefield, the Bullying Prevention Coordinator and Behavioral Specialist for the school system said they have on-line access where students and parents can complete their request for an investigation for bullying and said there are ‘bullying investigators' on every campus.
Stubblefield said the highest number of bullying reporting is happening in middle schools, and most recently in the 7th grade. “I think that what that signifies to us is when we have high bullying reporting by students that they are still trusting the adults on campus will help to resolve their issues and they do not have to take it in their own hands.”
Those at the symposium also discussed Critical Incident Response for faculty and staff as well as how to handle hostage and barricaded situations in schools.
“Safety for our children at schools is an important issue,” said Judge Jay Corpening. “Safety at school is about more than just making sure shooters are not there, it is about making sure that we take care of relationships, making sure that the mental health piece is taken care of, bullying is taken care of, and when things do go wrong we are able to recognize that something is really wrong and we need to address that too.”
Copyright 2015 WECT. All rights reserved.