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How to talk with your kids about standing up to a bully

Bullied kids suffer academically, too, study says
Posted at 8:05 AM, Aug 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-30 09:22:03-04

It's a harsh reality in schools across America: the government website reports as many as 1 in 3 U.S. kids have been bullied.

The bulk of school bullying happens at the middle school level, with a 2014 definition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying bullying typically involves an imbalance of power, aggressive behavior, and repetition.

A staggering 70% of American students reported seeing bullying in their schools, according to, but only 20% to 30% of those bullying victims came forward to adults.

That's why Jason Gaurkee, Behavioral Health Manager at Ascension Columbia St. Mary's Ozaukee, said it's important to speak with your children about the importance of standing up to a bully as we begin a new school year.

He said that includes standing up to a bully who may be picking on another student.

"Sometimes, that means stepping outside of your social group to do what's right," Gaurkee said. "Those who stand up for other people that are being bullied could also be vulnerable to being bullied themselves."

Gaurkee said bullies commonly target students who are isolated.

So he said parents can encourage students to find a "safe space" - either among friends or school officials.

"I think it's important when you're being bullied that you find a safe place, and that can be in peer groups but that can also be with safe adults," Gaurkee said. "Rarely does bullying occur in front of other adults."

Of course, some bullying also occurs online.

The 2017 School Crime Supplement survey found 15% of students 12 to 18 reported being cyberbullied - either online or through text messages.

So Gaurkee said parents should keep an eye on their student's social media.

"It's easier for kids to bully through social media sites, because they have the ability to hide behind a computer screen or a cell phone," he said.

But Gaurkee noted school districts don't have the authority to intervene and discipline a bully for actions that occur online, or off of school grounds. In those situations, parents should notify their local police department.