(WHTM) – One out of five students reports being bullied. It mostly happens right in the classroom and online.
abc27 met a former Midstate student who endured it and two local experts who told abc27 what can be done about this age-old problem.
“Bullying is a form of torture,” said Heather Taylor, a 23-year-old, who grew up in Camp Hill. One day, during a field hockey game, she took an elbow to the eye guard.
Taylor said, “It wasn’t until my coach called me off the field because I was apparently running sideways, I felt off.”
Heather had a bad concussion, and light and sound became her enemy.
She had to wear sunglasses in class and couldn’t stand loud sounds. That’s when classmates started shouting in her ear and shining light in her eyes.
Taylor said, “The flashlights from their phone or just finding ways to take my sunglasses away from me to expose me to light.”
Cyberbullying was just as bad with people posting anonymously.
“Some kids were also making fun of my appearance in general and some of them, I found out, were my close friends at the time,” said Taylor.
“We’re often told that sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Nothing could be less true,” said Melissa Brown PSYD, UPMC child psychologist. “We’ve always had bullying and I think what we see now in 2023 is that it is exacerbated because of the opportunity to have 24/7 bullying.”
It’s so difficult to be bullied right at the time of your life when fitting in is most important. Dr. Brown hears from victims about isolation, fear, and depression.
Brown said, “Parents are often the last to know and they don’t know why it’s happening because they don’t see their child the way the bully sees their child.”
She suggests that parents should ask specific questions not just “How was your day,” But, “Who are you hanging out with these days,” and, “What happened to the other people you used to hang out with?”
And she tells parents not to teach their children how to be the bully.
Brown said, “So if we’re angry about something or we’re frustrated with someone are we belittling someone and calling them names? That’s just teaching our children how to bully.”
Willie Slade, Steelton Highspire assistant superintendent said, “It’s frustrating. It can be frustrating.”
“To me, the number one solution is everything starts at home. I think parents just communicate with their kids about bullying about picking on other students and letting them know to be respectful of other people’s differences,” said Slade.
Some bullies can feel weak and vulnerable themselves and don’t know the effect they’re having.
Slade said, “They think they’re being funny and they think they’re joking around. It may be funny to you but that’s not funny to the person you’re talking about.”
Taylor said, “I do still think about it. A lot actually.”
In the end, Heather got through her eighth-grade year with the support of trusted adults who helped keep her away from her tormentors.
“I definitely want to teach my kids how to be kind to everyone,” said Taylor.
She says anti-bullying programs are only as good as the adults involved. Now an adult herself, she has become more resilient to life’s punches.
“Now, I am so much happier in my life. I’ve graduated college, I’m happy in my career, I’m not even in the same area anymore,” said Taylor.
Pennsylvania has a bullying prevention line and it’s part of the Department of Education’s Office for Safe Schools. The number is 866-716-0424