Experts explain warning signs and symptoms of bullying in school - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Experts explain warning signs and symptoms of bullying in school

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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -

Do you know the signs of bullying?

Government data shows only about 20 to 30 percent of students getting bullied actually tell adults about it.

Experts say to look out for the warning signs.

Lindsay Ciepiela, a social worker and clinic director at the Center for Human Development, told Western Mass News you can look for all kinds of symptoms.

"Retreating to their room more, they're not socializing with the family, avoiding school or any frequent extracurricular activities they used to really enjoy," said Ciepiela.

"Unexplained stomachaches, headaches, 'I just don't feel good.' All those sort of issues tend to correlate to issues of anxiety or depression that are statistically correlated to bullying behavior," Ciepiela continued. 

Western Mass News caught up with some parents who say their children have experienced bullying.

"She was in with a group of girls and I guess one of them started being very mean. There was that pack mentality and she was ousted. It was just very simple, classic bullying," said Ashley Foster. 

Foster said she reported the incident to her daughter's school and it was solved quickly.

In fact, Massachusetts law requires that school districts have a bullying and intervention plan. 

Dr. Mary Anne Morris, Director of Student Services for Holyoke Public Schools, gave Western Mass News a look at how her district handles reports.

"When we get a bullying complaint, the first thing the administrators do is just want to make sure everybody's safe. It may require immediate action changing a seat in a classroom, putting extra adult supervision out on the playground or in the hallways, perhaps changing classes separating the two," said Dr. Morris. 

Then, the school district begins an investigation of gathering evidence, which could include witness interviews.

"There's a very big difference between the number of complaints filed and the number actually substantiated," Dr. Morris added. 

At the end of the school year, the verified incidents are documented at a district level, and thus, reported to the state.

"Bullying is very, very serious. It can do a lot of damage for a very long time to students, to their mental health, to their academics," said Dr. Morris. 

With the prevalence of school shootings, some parents wonder how bullying might have played a role.

"Particularly after the Parkland shooting, a lot of the districts experienced a real spike in threats. Bullying does not directly cause school shooting," Dr. Morris continued. 

However, mental health remains a concern.

"They're learning that terrible thing happened and then there was all this airtime about people who were bullied or sad or hurt so we're conditioning folks to realize to get the help they need to have to really make a splash," said Ciepiela.

According to government data, 28 percent of U.S. students in grades 6 through 12 experience bullying, and approximately 30 percent of young people admit to bullying others.

So, how can you make sure your child isn't the bully?

Experts will answer that question Friday night on Western Mass News at 11 p.m. on ABC40 and CBS3.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. 

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