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Bullying has big impact on kids

Posted: Monday, Oct 3rd, 2011

BUL-ly-ing 1. To treat abusively. 2. To affect by means of force or coercion.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the first known use of the word bullying was in 1693. In 2000, the word cyber-bullying was introduced to our vocabulary and is defined by the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person often anonymously. We have come a long way or have we? Cyber-bullying has escalated bullying. Students, teachers, parents and the community in general can change how it responds to bullying and we must, because it impacts the learning day … at a minimum.

According to The National Center for Victims of Crime, almost 30 percent of teens in the United States, or more than 5.7 million, are estimated to be involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying or both. Of those, 5.4 percent of high school students, about 864,000 teens, report staying home one day a month because they fear for their safety.

Bullying may lead to harassment, assault and stalking. These behaviors are against school rules and many are also against the law. A student should expect their school to take action and ensure their safety. Victims of bullying often feel depressed and helpless. The best way for a student to cope is to get support and assistance from an adult.

Bullying is not just a problem that goes on somewhere else, it happens right here in Rochelle and Ogle County and local educators are addressing the problem and learning how to deal with bullying that to a conference by mother and daugher, Debbie and Hannah Perryman, who will be presenting at a professional development conference on bullying for teachers in the area at NIU on Friday, Oct. 14. The conference is titled, “Bullying: How to respond?”

Case leads to law

Hannah Perryman experienced bullying beginning in the fifth grade. This led to assault and stalking, but finally culminated with Hannah’s perpetrator, a girl one year her senior, being charged with eight counts of felony stalking and two misdemeanor harassment charges.

The case was settled just last year with a plea bargain, to avoid going to trial. By this time, Hannah was a junior in high school.

Hannah’s mother, Debbie, is a former Illinois Teacher of the Year and no stranger to bullying, but this hit much closer to home.

Thankfully, the Perrymans took action to help others and there were results.

In 2010, due to Hannah’s testimony, changes went into effect with the state’s law against stalking, strengthening the law and giving more protection to victims. The Perryman family’s motivation was for no other child to have to go through what they did, due to a gap in the law. Previously, an individual could only obtain a civil order of protection if it was a domestic violence situation and the individual had been threatened at least two times.

Under the new law, it is not required to be a familial relationship, nor is there the required two-time threat. What is required is fear of the individual and the police being able to verity that fear is substantiated.

Usually bullying is same sex – boys bully boys; girls bully girls. Some experts believe it’s a result of the insecurities children feel when entering middle school. Stalking is typically not same sex, although in Hannah’s case it was. The Perryman’s didn’t give up or take matters into their own hands. Something Debbie Perryman would like parents to understand is that families experiencing bullying who want help have to be “above board.” Meaning, they cannot retaliate. They have to do what the school and authorities are telling them to do or the situation is no longer prosecutable.

“It is essential for all adults in a school building to be on the same page, responding to bullying in the same way and implementing the school anti-bullying/harassment policy,” Debbie Perryman said.

Hannah is a success story, no doubt due to the support and wisdom of her family as well as help from a very special police officer, Detective Syre. Hannah declined having her name attached to the new stalking law. She is moving forward. She’s in her senior year and will be attending the University of Missouri on a softball scholarship, studying criminology.

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