Tackling Bullying in Hillsborough County
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12/01/10 Sarah Curran
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

Whether online, via cell phone, physically or just harsh words, bullying is bullying and Hillsborough County is trying to stop it.

“We raise awareness we hopefully are helping at least bring attention the problem of bullying help stop some of it, and encourage kids to report it, help parents understand and know if their child is being bullied or if their child is a bully.”

Carol Micheal is the Community Relations Coordinator of Community Justice. Micheals, along with 12 other board members are part of the Hillsborough County Anti-Bullying Advisory Committee. They met today to continue in their efforts to curb bullying in the area. The Committee formed in February of 2009 as part of a county wide anti-bullying initiative. But their focus isn’t on area schools.

“We sort of work in tandem with each other. They have the kids from seven thirty to however long they are in class, but bullying is every. It’s at the bus stop, at the parks, it’s in your neighborhoods, the malls. So what we hope to do is fill that gap between the time kids leave school till they go back to school the next morning, because they need help as well.”

Micheal adds one of the major issues the Committee is working on is tackling Cyber-bullying.

“It can be done anywhere, anytime of day and it’s hard for parents to know what their kids are doing. So what we’ve tried to do is at least drive home some awareness tips for parents. Don’t put your kids computer in the bedroom, things like this just for parent to know what their children are doing and be involved. That’s one of the best ways we can tackle the Cyber bullying problem is for parents and families to be a family and to be involved in the children’s projects and activities, know what they are doing, know what their friends are.”

Research and statistics on Cyber-bullying are few and far between. Committee members like University of South Florida Associate professor Tom Massey says they first have to understand Cyber-bullying before they can make a difference.

“We do have a sub committee, what we are calling a data sub committee for a lack of a better term, that has already begun to do some surveys with students to find out what happens out of school. So I think that is an area that can certainly stand more research.”

School Resource Officer Betty Williams also sits on the board of the advisory committee. She says schools and parents are still not sure how to handle and find Cyber-bullies.

“Yea you cant see but you definitely know its like a rumor mill if they do it at home 9 times out of 10 its gonna come on campus because everybody is talking about it. The Myspace is a serious thing, as far as Facebook. Them talking about somebody using bad names. Usually they will print it, if it gets really bad the parents will print it and bring it to us and then we have to deal with it on campus.”

However, Williams adds schools are doing what they can to tackle the issue.

“[it] Takes the school at least two years to get any notification in their handbooks published. So like Cyber-bullying and texting, they now have videos and PDAs, their making people more aware that this is a big problem and I think that’s great. The more media, the more awareness, the more we educate, the less the crime.”

Advisory members agree, changes have to come from the kids themselves before they can really begin to make a difference. Members like Carol Micheal are hoping groups like the Bully Busters Youth Council will help the Committee better understand how and where to tackle the issue of bullying in and outside of the classroom.

“We formed it in last April and we probably have 70 to 80 kids that belong, the kids ages range form 6 to 17. We do several projects with them. We meet once a month with them. They participated in the “To Good for Drugs and Violence” walk and Kid Fest back in October. They are planning a big rally they want to hold in the spring. In our meeting last month they had a lot of material this committee provided them, workbooks, videos, things like that. So the kids divided into groups and critiqued these to see if they have a friend that is being bullied would they recommend this book to them, this video or this website to them.”

To find out more about bullying in Hillsborough County you can go online to www.Hillsboroughcounty.org/bullybusters. The committee will meet again on January 26th. There will also be an Anit-bullying Rally this Friday at USA’s Skateplex. Students who sign the Anti-Bullying Pledge can attend the event for free.

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