Students across Minnesota are back in school this week, and bullying is something that may come up.
An Edina High School junior opened up to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS about the years she was bullied. Sixteen-year-old Madison Seeley says she endured cyber and verbal abuse while she was in elementary and middle school.
“It was mostly emotional bullying,” she said. “There was teasing, exclusion and stuff like that, where it’s like, at face value even, a lot of time people don’t even realize the impact it has.”
Madison says there wasn’t much the school staff could have done to help the situation.
“Kids are kids, you know,” she told us. “And it’s just like those natural tendencies for those little comments in the hallway.”
Child psychologists say that logic is flawed.
“For parents to be aware of that, and not just dismiss it as, ‘kids will be kids’ can only be helpful to kids,” child psychologist Abi Gewirtz explained.
There are ads out there promoting non-profits that aim to help bullied kids.
Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center is one of those non-profits. Director Julie Hertzog says sayings like, “kids will be kids” and “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” are just ways people rationalize bully behavior. She says those sayings cause kids to repress their feelings.
“We’re not giving kids the opportunity to make it better, to make the situation better, and they truly start to feel alone,” Hertzog explained.
There are kids of all ages in schools across the state who are dealing with this right now. Hertzog hopes that will soon change thanks to Gov. Mark Dayton’s Safe and Supportive Schools Act. Under the law, districts are required to adopt a collaborative bullying policy, which includes cyber bullying. Schools must designate a person to investigate and track bullying reports, which kids can submit anonymously. The Minnesota Dept. of Education collects the data to learn some best practices to combat bullying.
“One of the things that the law states … if their child is experiencing a bullying situation, there’s going to be a point of contact at all schools,” she explained.
Madison says if she had someone to talk to, it would have helped her recover more quickly.
“I would have gotten out of that so much more quickly,” she said.