Anchorage Students Call Bullying Widespread Problem
Solutions include family involvement, peer-to-peer work
ANCHORAGE - Bullying has been called a growing problem in Alaska, and its devastating effects have made headlines nationwide.
Kids across Anchorage said it’s an all-too-common situation, and now Alaskans are stepping up and teaming up to combat the problem head on.
“This person slapped someone’s books on the floor and I helped them pick them up and he still slapped it down,” said 12-year-old Manase Asi. Taylor Haines, 14, told a similar story.
“It happens to some of my friends, and they just send ugly messages to each other,” she said. “They call them bad names.”
It's a disturbing trend: acts intended to cause physical and emotional harm that can have a silencing effect. “They always say you should talk to people but it’s not like that because people are ashamed,” said 14-year-old Sam Bernitz. Haines said fear of retribution also played a role.
“Sometimes, if you tell an adult and then they go and confront the bully, the bully will get more angry and take it out on you so I don't always think that's always the best option,” she said. But it has also turned others into protectors.
“I bully bullies because they make you mad, because it’s not good when people be picking on other people,” said 14-year-old Kolah Mataafa.
Wednesday, Alaska's community and youth leaders banded together to find solutions during a round table discussion in East Anchorage. Real action, they said, began with teaching kids about respect.
“In the community, you’re going to see more perpetrators, but within the schools you are going to see more victims,” said Brandi Kriger of the Alaska Youth and Parent Foundation’s Power Teen Clinic.
“I've seen mostly bullying amongst gays and transgenders,“ said Kriger, a recent Bartlett High School graduate. “There was a page last year called Burning Bartlett and they would upload pictures of different students and would tell people to put rude comments.”
It became a problem most kids shied away from, and Kriger said many students didn’t begin to fight the problem until they themselves became victims. Jan Davis, a social-emotional learning support teacher for the Anchorage School District, said the challenge lay in making the community more aware of and involved in the conversation.
“They (students) usually know between right and wrong, but they just don't always do what is right,” she said. “They don't do it around the teachers, they're doing it when they're not being seen, so we can't investigate anything, we can't look into anything, we can't help to solve the problem if we are not aware of it.”
Kids said the bullying isn't even always visible.
“Sometimes words hurt, too,” Asi said. “It’s like throwing stuff, like stones being thrown at you.”
For more anti-bullying resources, click here.