What local schools are doing to prevent bullying and help students

anti-bullying campaign

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Bullying is a serious problem across the country, which is why communities and schools are working to provide resources for students affected and teach kids how to be kind.

St. Christine School is mourning the loss of one of its own, a 13-year-old girl who took her own life the day before classes were to begin. Emotions surrounding her death have been rippling through the community.

In a police report, the girl’s father said she was dealing with anxiety and depression because of bullying from classmates.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that bullying in school or online contributed to more violent behavior in children.

It revealed that about 20 percent of students had been bullied on school property. The study also found that about 15 percent of students had been bullied electronically, through email, texting, instant messaging, websites or chat rooms.

In addition, over 17 percent of the students studied had seriously considered attempting suicide and over eight percent attempted suicide one or more times, according to the CDC.

As schools in the area begin a brand new year, teachers and students are getting used to being back in the classroom. Locally, most schools have anti-bullying programs that discourage students from being bystanders.

“We have the responsibility to be kind and respectful to one another,” said Mary Fiala with the Diocese of Youngstown Catholic Schools.

It’s one of the lessons students in Youngstown’s Catholic schools are taught.

“Just like we teach algebra and geometry, we also have to teach our kids how to get along, and sometimes I think that we forget that our kids aren’t going to automatically know some of those things,” Fiala said.

The diocese school system says it has had a policy in place for five years that deals with bullying, and that policy is constantly being updated.

The Juvenile Justice Center travels to area schools, teaching about bullying and meeting with students. All of its programs are free for Mahoning County residents, and they will even come to you.

“A lot of these kids who maybe are bullying kids, maybe have been bullied themselves and rather than being the one attention is focused on, they’re just trying to get that attention on someone else so they are part of the herd rather than standing out from the pack,” said Mahoning County Juvenile Court Magistrate Anthony D’Apolito.

Anti-bullying campaigns in schools across the Valley focus on things such as making sure no one eats alone and signing pledges. There is also the Say Something program, which is part of the Sandy Hook Promise.

“It focuses on teaching children to identify the symptoms of bullying when they see someone being picked upon, understanding what it is that person is going through,” D’Apolito said.

He says the programs aim to empower students to speak up when they see bullying going on.

“The main thing is, if you suspect bullying in any form or fashion, let someone know. Do not sit there and be silent about it.”

Counselor Sarah Tolson with PsyCare in Struthers says parents should talk with their children about these issues.

“Sometimes it’s a simple question like, ‘How are you feeling? How was your day?’ It’s extremely important and opens the door for them to be able to kind of express what is happening.”

She says if your kids ask questions about suicide, you should be open and honest with them. That means asking them how they feel about what happened and letting them know how you feel about it.

D’Apolito encourages students who are being bullied to tell their teachers, parents or someone at the Juvenile Justice Center to get help.

Those who are being bullied or are contemplating suicide can also call the 24/7 Help Hotline:

  • Mahoning County: 330-747-2696 or 2-1-1
  • Trumbull County: 330-393-1565 or 2-1-1
  • Columbiana County (East Palestine, Beloit, Sebring and western Columbiana County): 330-424-7767 or 1-800-427-3606

If you live in Mercer County, you can call the Crisis Intervention Hotline at 724-662-2227. In Lawrence County, the crisis intervention number is 724-652-9000.

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