Bullying goes online

Intimidation no longer limited to playground, school hallways

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]Izaiah Dolezal discusses the need to help educate middle school and elementary school students on the perils of bullying as his Lake City High classmate Kaylee Jahns listens Monday.

COEUR d'ALENE - The image is of a smaller kid getting shoved into a locker.

Not anymore.

While bullying has been around since school itself, today's kids face a whole new cyber world of how students can pick on other students.

Thanks to social media, like Facebook and Twitter, and the constant way it keeps people connected, bullying today doesn't end when the school day does.

Nor is it reserved for physical confrontations in the hallway.

Instead, it's words and taunts online, where they can stay forever.

"It used to be all in school and it stayed in school," said Kaylee Jahns, Lake City High School senior "Now it's all the Internet outside of school and kids are feeling ... helpless, I guess, because they don't know who to go to because it's not during school."

The cyber-age of bullying has come to the front of the country's conscience in the last few years after high profile cases of teenagers committing suicide as the result of online badgering.

Student suicides have hit home, too, showing bullying is a local issue as much as a national topic.

"It's a huge issue," said Karlynn Welch King, LCHS senior, taking part with her fellow classmates in the school's Anti Bullying theme for spirit week for homecoming. "I definitely think there's a lot more bullying prevention happening now, but there needs to be more. It needs to be taught from grade school up. Not just a few assemblies a year, but a program."

National statistics show one in four students are bullied, said Nichole Thiel, student adviser.

And with it less in the hallways and more on the computer, it can be difficult for faculty at schools to know which students are feeling pressure.

But students are working on the problem. One idea LCHS kids shared Monday - the first day of national Anti-Bullying Month - they want to go into elementary schools and teach kids early it's not OK to bully. The message might be better received if delivered by high school kids, because younger students are often more impressed with older kids than they are adults.

"It's a mindset," said Izaiah Dolezal, senior, on why people gang up on others. "All the sudden, you have to go inside someone's mind and change that, and that's really hard to do."

But something must be done, they said. The school's recently re-activated program where upperclassmen mentor underclassmen should help implement the idea that all students are in it together.

"To bully someone to the point they want to kill themselves is really sad," said Natalie Horn, freshman.

They're not naive, though, they know it's an uphill battle. Especially when they look at how some celebrities behave toward one another, and even how some adults bully others online on blogs or comment sections on stories - it's a learned behavior, after all.

"Some students believe it's OK to criticize the way they see it being done out in the world," Jahns said.

If they can start by reaching one student at time, then it can spread, they said. It's the start that's most important.

"Those reach-outs can open people's eyes," Jahns said. "Once they have an open mind about it, then it'll start changing. It may not be now and as immediate as it should be, but it will change over time."

Destiny Duvernay performs a stomp session Monday with the Lake City High School band at the school during a spirit week performance in the commons.

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