BATON ROUGE, LA. (BRPROUD) — October is known as Nation Bullying Prevention Month. What is bullying, what are the signs, and how schools are addressing it?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines bullying as “any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths, who are not siblings or current dating parents, that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance, and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated”.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, one out of every five students reports being bullied.

It’s been found that students ages 12 to 18 have experienced several different types of bullying including:

  • Verbal
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Cyber

While verbal bullying has been found to be the most common form of bullying, cyberbullying is growing at a fast rate.

According to the CDC, “Reports of cyberbullying are highest among middle school students, followed by high school students, and then primary school students.”

Doctor Stephanie Eberts, a well-known counselor at Louisiana State University, says she’s been studying patterns in children’s behavior when it comes to bullying.

“When we think about the dynamics of bullying it’s all about power,” says Eberts.

“They are trying to figure out, who they are, and they often do that by trying to see who they are like and who they are not like,” Eberts said.

Unfortunately, Eberts says that children who view things as different or unfamiliar to them tend to take it out on the other students.

“Racism, sexism, and even economic privilege can be used against kids,” Eberts says.

Eberts found when kids find a loophole in those categories, they tend to assert power over their victims.

“The idea of a child wanting to assert power, they will use anything that could potentially put that child in a position of weakness or vulnerability,” said Eberts.

The CDC says bullied students are more likely to experience low self-esteem and isolation. Research has also shown that bullying affects mental health and can be tied to suicidal thoughts. Eberts suggests parents look for certain behaviors if they think their child may be a victim.

“Avoidance at school, avoidance of friends, avoidance of social activities, when you start to see those sorts of things, that is, might be a red flag,” Eberts said.

If You See Something, Say Something, a national campaign, comes into focus if there’s a problem that can be reported.

The President of the Autism Society of the Louisiana Chapter Beryl Hebert works daily with children on the autism spectrum.

Herbert knows it’s higher for children with disabilities like autism.

“For students with autism, for individuals with autism, it’s probably twice that much compared to 20%,” Herbert said.

Herbert teaches the children in the Louisiana Autism society how to be face-to-face with a bully.

“Someway where you find within yourself, your voice, your strength, your superpower a lot of kids on the spectrum would say that’s my superpower,” Hebert said.

As far as other children who are bullied, Herbert has some advice.

“It’s good to have that voice,” she says. “And what we would like to see happen, is for them to have more and more of a voice,” she said.

Dadrius Lanus, an East Baton Rouge Parish School Systems member, is well aware of the growing number of students being bullied.  

“We’ve known that it’s grown, and because it has grown we know that we’ve had to take some approaches and measures,” Lanus said.

In the 2022 Louisiana legislative session, a new anti-bullying law was passed on how to legally handle cases and disciplinary actions.

The law says when bullying happens inside a school, it is now considered harassment. According to the new federal law, the schools have a legal obligation to investigate.

After the bill became law, Lanus said the school board changed several policies.

“We have changed several of our policies, and we want to make sure that we continue to feel safe and protected inside of our schools and outside. We want to make sure those things carry over,” he said.

It’s been shown according to PACER’s Nation Bullying Prevention Center that school-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25%.

One of those policies Lanus discussed helps provide resources to the child, known as the “bully” in some cases.

“When it comes to our students, it has been an ecosystem where everyone has to work together so we can give true wrap-around services for that child,” Lanus said.

Below is a list provided with different kinds of resources.

If you are a student, parent, or educator in Louisiana and need to report a bullying problem, you can visit the Louisiana Department of Education page.

Visit StopBullying. Gov for topics dealing with bullying, if you are a child or adult.

If you are having suicidal thoughts from the effects of being bullied, visit the 988 Lifeline.

If you’re interested in receiving counseling online, click here.