Parents who believe their children are victims of bullies must learn to recognize the signs and take action to stop the abuse.
That was the message delivered Thursday to about 30 parents, children and school officials attending a seminar on bullying at Grovetown Middle School. The seminar is part of a series sponsored by Columbia County Juvenile Court and the Columbia County Alternative School.
Juvenile Court Judge Doug Flanagan said bullying is illegal. If going to the parents of the bully doesn’t end the abuse, then other options include the school and sheriff’s office.
Also, Flanagan noted that “nonchalant” parents of bullies believing their children only are going through a phase should think again.
“You might think it’s a game, but you won’t when your kids end up in handcuffs,” he said.
Often, though, victims of bullies feel too ashamed to inform their parents, said county Juvenile Court Probation Officer Kari Poss.
“They don’t feel empowered that they can be saved,” she said.
Signs parents should look for include changes in attitudes, failing grades, no longer taking part in previously routine activities, missing items that might have been taken by bullies, or that the children might start bullying their siblings or other children.
Though physical abuse remains the most prevalent form of bullying, Poss said cyberbullying, through the Internet or texts, is growing.
Columbia County school officials recently changed a policy that now promises to teach pupils proper Web etiquette and defenses against Internet predators.
Pupils will be taught to be aware of who they “friend” on social networking sites and how to respond if they feel bullied via the Web.
Flanagan said during the seminar that parents should know their children’s computer passwords and often monitor their online activities to seek out incidents of bullying behavior.
The most well-known local incident of cyberbullying occurred in 2010 when a Lakeside High School student created a fake Facebook page using the name of another student. On the page, he pretended to be the other student and claimed he lied during a dismissal hearing for a former teacher.
As a result of the faked page, the student victim received threats of bodily harm and had to transfer to another school.
Superintendent Charles Nagle has said pupils already are not allowed to visit social sites, or any non-school related Web site at school.
The Internet instruction courses will be implemented as a condition to receive federal funding for communications upgrades.