Juvenile Specialist Not Surprised by Report on Bullying

Report released this month found that 3rd graders are most bullied, but violence decreases as students age

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    A juvenile behavior specialist who once worked the man who pioneered a recent study on bullying said he's not surprised by the report's findings and personally thinks the statistics are a little low.

    The University Illinois Chicago's Dr. Carl Bell worked with Dr. Dan Olweus, who is considered the founder of bully research.  Olweus' team conducted the anonymous study of about 500,000 students.

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    The report, released earlier this month, found that:

    • Roughly 17 percent of children are bullied...
    • Bullying is most prevalent in the third grade...
    • Nearly 25 percent of students in the third grade reported being bullied...
    • The rate of bullying declines each year through the 12th grade...

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    "If you look at ... all the surveys of youth violence, what you will find is that probably 50 percent of males below the age of 18 engage in an act of violence which is a felony-level crime," said Bell.  "So bullying is a lesser degree of that because these are actual physical altercations that youth in surveys for the last 20 or 30 years have been reporting."

    And he has a theory as to why bullying is so prevalent among young people. 

    "You don't get frontal lobes, the judgment, wisdom and thinking part of the brain, which is able to accept differences in a humane way until you're 26, which is why I refer to children as all gasoline, no brakes or steering wheel, which is why adults need to be in the presence of childrens' lives to be the brakes and steering wheels," he explained.

    Cossitt Elementary in LaGrange seems to be ahead of other schools by proactively combatting the violence.

    "Kids don't just come programmed with that. They need some intentional instruction in how to work with one another," said principal Mary Tavegia.

    The school's socio-emotional program teaches autonomy, community building and a caring community of learning.

    "A child who has empathy is far less likely to bully another child," said Tavegia.

    A former bodyguard and police officer uses his knowledge to travel around to Chicagoland schools with his "bullyguard" seminar. Cliff Paul started the program when he saw bullying become a real problem. He tries to educate kids on what to expect from a bully and offers some coping strategies.

    "If they're being bullied, they have to tell someone," said Paul. "They have to tell someone at the school. They have to talk to a parent. Also, we teach them how to safely and intelligently walk away."