About 22 percent of Connecticut students who participated in the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior survey said that they experienced bullying in school — higher than the national average of 19.6 percent.
Also, the number of students who said that they were cyber-bullied is higher than the national average. In the survey, 17.5 percent of Connecticut students said that they were cyber-bullied, compared to 14.8 percent nationally.
Teachers at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School (Co-op) in New Haven said they were aware that bullying remains a problem, but that the school system has taken steps to address it.
Mindi Englart, a creative writing teacher at Co-op, said, “bullying is a problem in life, not just in high school.”
Valerie Vollono, also a teacher at Co-op, agreed. “A lot of bullying still occurs, particularly over social media,” she said. Both said the school system has a good policy about bullying, but that it doesn’t stop the problem altogether because victims are sometimes afraid to report incidents.
Teachers and staff have undergone training in recent years to identify, prevent and address bullying. Englart said she tries to intervene when she sees a situation that could constitute bullying.
“When I see that that someone, including myself, is doing or saying something that makes someone else feel bad, I try to bring attention to the behavior and give additional ways for a person to act, so their words or actions don’t harm others,” she said.
According to kidshealth.org, bullying and cyber-bullying can both cause victims to become depressed and experience other stress-related disorders. Sometimes bullying can even lead to suicide.
The attempted suicide rate among high schoolers in Connecticut is 8.1 percent, compared to 8 percent nationally, the youth survey showed.
A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people were related to bullying.
Englart said some teenagers aren’t even aware that their behavior qualifies as bullying. Educating students about it is key.
“Anyone can act in a way that makes someone else feel scared or inferior. Sometimes, we do it and aren’t even aware we’re doing it,” she said. “I see small acts of bullying almost every day.”
Miranda Noad is a student at the Co-Operative Arts & Humanities High School, New Haven.