There's a dangerous health risk for students at schools all over the metro area. It can lead to depression and even suicide. It's not drugs, it's bullying.
NewsChannel 5 is kicking off a campaign to do something about bullying in schools. It's called "Enough is Enough".
Bullying: Enough is Enough
We found out many schools are using a new strategy to stop bullying.
"I have been bullied since preschool so this is been happening for so long," said Luke Hart.
For most of his young life, Luke Hart suffered in silence.
"Trying to say something can be extremely hard because you don't want to be seen as weak and made fun of again," he said.
So Luke Hart said nothing about being bullied — until the pain became unbearable.
"I came home with bruises a couple of times I actually came home one day with my elbow broken from a kid at my first high school. It hurt beyond comprehension," he said.
Luke finally told his parents, but he remained doubtful.
"I see these ad campaigns that say like, 'End bullying'. OK, end bullying. But how are you going to do it?"
As it happens, many schools in our area are using a new strategy to stop bullying and other bad behavior. It's an approach called 'restorative practices' — an idea borrowed from the criminal justice system — and experts tell us it's making a big difference.
Dr. Rene Sommers is the principal at Green Trails Elementary in Chesterfield.
"It does work," she said. "We are seeing less frequent offenders we are seeing less repeat offenders."
Here's how Restorative Practices works:
- Instead of separating the wrongdoer and the victim, Both sides are brought together.
- Instead of asking, "Who is to blame?" the questions focus on, "Who has been affected and how?"
- Instead of deciding what the punishment will be, the question is, "How can we fix it? How can we make it right?"
"When you make a mistake, if you learn from it, then you're growing. If you make a mistake and we just say, 'You're a bad person,' That doesn't help anyone," Sommers said.
This new approach isn't used in all cases — especially when there's a great deal of fear between a child and the person being accused of bullying.
But Sommers said because of restorative practices, detentions and suspensions are way down at Green Trails Elementary.
"I have not had a child yet who didn't want to fix it," she said.
And Luke Hart also feels like he's fixed his situation. No one bullies him anymore.
He's a freshman at Webster University now, studying video game design.
Luke's advice to others being bullied; say something, don't suffer in silence.
"Saying something is better than just waiting for people to come to you. Because if you reach out like a pinky to somebody they will try to grab that pinky — especially if that's your parents."
Are you or your child being bullied? Here are a few resources that can help:
- The Megan Meier Foundation
- Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education
- Missouri NEA
- Cyberbullying Research Center