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High School Hostage Situation Shines New Light On Bullying

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Police still haven't been able to interview the teenager they say is responsible for a hostage situation at East Chapel Hill High School.

Authorities say William Foster, 17, is being treated at UNC Hospitals, where he was taken Monday night after he held a teacher and classmate at gunpoint in a classroom.

Sources have told WRAL that Foster may have turned to violence because he was bullied at school.

A study from the U.S. Department of Justice reveals that one in every four children is bullied. Thirty-six percent of high-school students say they don't' feel safe and 8 percent of students miss a day of class each month out of fear of being bullied.

"It's just really hard," said one student who spoke to WRAL on the condition that her identity remain concealed. "(Bullying) makes school worse because you don't want to go into school and be picked on."

The student says her boyfriend was bullied and had to leave her school as a result.

"It ruined his life because now, he has to be careful where he goes because they might be there, and he also has to make sure he's not alone," she said. "If he drives home, he has to make sure he's in (an) area where they won't be."

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system is a leader in the state when it comes to bullying. In 2003, it adopted an anti-bullying policy aimed at making sure all students feel like they have someone they can talk to about such issues..

"It's a journey," said Jeff Reilly with Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. "We're still working on things to shore it up, to make sure every student has a contact in that school that they can go to."

The North Carolina Board of Education also has a statewide policy against bullying, and this year, the Department of Public Instruction plans to train every school district on how to handle the issue.

At this point, no one knows for sure why Foster felt like he had no one to which he could go. If bullying is the root of his desperation, school administrators say it's a message from which everyone can learn.

"We hope that people will take bullying more seriously and recognize that bullying often leads to discrimination, harassment and violence," Willis said.

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