SIDNEY — Efforts to address bullying in the county schools are underway at the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
“One of the big issues the Sheriff’s Advisory Committee indicated that is occuring throughout the county schools is bullying. At the fair this year, we concentrated on bullying. That was kind of our topic. We need to talk to our children and make them aware that they can go to their parents, they can go to a teacher, whoever in authority, and let them know that they are being bullied, so that we can get it to stop,” Shelby County Sheriff Jim Frye said.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, one out of every five students reported being bullied in 2019. Of those students who reported being bullied, 13 percent were made fun of, called names, or insulted; 13 percent were the subject of rumors; 5 percent were pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on; and 5 percent were excluded from activities on purpose. At the Shelby County Fair specifically, Frye said that a fight broke out between two girls that started because of bullying that had happened months prior within the schools.
“She made a poor choice, but that stemmed from the bullying that she had taken from the other classmates, based on the information that was thrown out there. It’s just unfortunate,” Frye said. “It’s really an issue that’s plaguing a lot of our juveniles, and it’s not a specific age group.”
According to a study published by Gail McCallion and Jody Feder in 2013, school-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25 percent. Frye said that the Sheriff’s office is looking into creating bullying prevention and education programs to offer in the schools, expanding on part of the D.A.R.E. program that is already in place. Currently, the D.A.R.E. program only serves fifth grade students.
“I think we need to come up with a better program or at least something that we can, rather it be a PR campaign or whatever, to get the message out there that there are avenues for children that are being bullied to report this. There’s a lot of things that we’ve been thinking about, maybe having a bullying hotline number or something in regards to that, to have some way to get the message out there and have an avenue for the kids to go to,” Frye said.
Stopbullying.gov notes that bullying has impact on mental health, substance abuse, and suicide, and that kids who are bullied are more likely to experience depression and anxiety which can persist into adulthood, health complaints, decreased academic achievement, and decreased school participation. Signs that a child is being bullied include:
• Unexplainable injuries;
• Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry;
• Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness;
• Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating;
• Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares;
• Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school;
• Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations;
• Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem; and
• Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide.
Frye is meeting with the Sheriff’s Advisory Committee this week to bring ideas such as future programming and the hotline, and see where they can take those ideas and what plans they can come up with to address bullying in the area and help mediate the issue.
“What I would like to do is have something in place before the start of the school year. We’ve got to have a plan of action to give the kids an out,” Frye said.
He echoed that any child who is being bullied can always seek out a trusted adult for help.
“They can always talk to their parents about it, a teacher, every school has a guidance counselor. The best thing they can do is talk to someone about it. If they keep it within and it just keeps building up and building up and building up, sooner or later it’s going to explode. That’s where we’re going to have issues of suicide, drug use — it can lead to a variety of issues, and that’s what we want to try to prevent,” Frye said.
The Sidney Daily News conducts a periodic interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.