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Growing up, children are taught, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Everyone knows that’s just wrong — especially the kids who grow up to be bullied — by sticks, stones, words and worse — and that number may surprise you.
A recent anonymous survey of more than a half-million U.S. students in grades three through 12 showed that 17 percent of them said they were bullied two to three times a month each semester (that number was highest for third-graders, with 25 percent reporting abuse at that frequency in school); a quarter of girls and almost a third of boys said they had been bullied for several years; most said they felt sorry for bullied students if they saw bullying occur, but almost as many said they did nothing, even though they thought they should, as those who tried to help. Ten percent admitted to being the bullies.
Some 40 states have tried to step in with laws that try to stop bullying in schools, and those are good starts at what have to be holistic attempts to teach and live the Golden Rule, involving adults and children at home, in public, at school, at church, at work and in every relationship.
A bill was filed on Friday by Kentucky state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, to strengthen the state’s anti-bullying law passed in 2008. The new measure spells out protected classes of students who are targeted by bullies for their actual or perceived race, their religion, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, their physical, mental, emotional or learning disability, and for other distinguishing characteristics.
The pages of today’s Forum carry evidence of why such protections need to be extended to these students.
Bradley Coffman, now a University of Louisville senior, wrote of his Casey County High School memories: being physically attacked on school grounds after he came out, fellow students screaming names at him … every … single … day. “There was no one to help me then … and no one who would acknowledge the severity of the situation,” he said.