NC State conference takes on school bullies

Posted March 29, 2011 4:47 p.m. EDT
Updated March 29, 2011 8:00 p.m. EDT

— A study by Clemson University found that 17 percent of students in elementary and secondary schools are bullied twice a month or more, and nearly half said that the harassment lasted for more than year.

To combat bullying in schools, North Carolina State University on Tuesday hosted the first statewide conference to help students and educators stand up to the problem.

"When I do see it, I try to speak up and say it's not cool," said Morgan Hayes, a seventh-grader at North Garner Middle School who attended the conference with a friend as part of a Girl Scout project.

Jamie Nabozny, who was bullied for years in schools because he's gay, told attendees about the beatings and name-calling he endured.

Speakers talked about bullying prevention programs that focus on the whole school. They recommended training staff members to intervene and building parental support.

"It really has to be a community effort at all levels," said Nancy Kent, a child mental health specialist at The Durham Center, which provides behavioral health and disability services.

Justine Hollingshead, director of N.C. State's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Center, said school administrators, teachers and counselors need to take the initiative to stop bullying.

"(They need) to say, 'You know what, there's a problem, and we need to address that,'" Hollingshead said.

Kent said the problem is worse with the advent of online bullying. Two South Johnston high school students, for example, were recently charged with cyberbullying after authorities said they set up a Facebook page to torment a classmate.

"When we were kids, you have to be face to face with a bully. You had to have a whole lot more strength and power and courage to be a bully back then because there weren't other opportunities," she said. "Now, (the Internet provides) an easy way to be a coward."

Hayes said she wants to make North Garner Middle a no-bully zone and reach out to those who've been hurt.

"It's not your fault that you're being bullied," she said. "God made you, and he loves you, and a lot of people love you."