Houston Area School Districts Gain Training from HCDE Bullying/Cyber-bullying Prevention Program

HOUSTON – School bullies are no longer being brushed off as ineffective, harmless, attention-getters who rule over weaklings.

Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools’ Laura Hodges says bullies are to be taken seriously, especially by school districts. In fact, studies show that bullies are four times as likely to have three or more legal system convictions by age 24.

Hodges teaches bullying and cyberbullying general information courses to educators in the 26 school districts in greater Harris County. The Texas Education Agency now requires that school districts have plans in place to deter occurrences of bullying, and many schools opt to implement the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program available through HCDE. The multi-level, multi-component, school-based program assists in restructuring the school environment and helps reduce opportunities for bullying.

“In my personal opinion, Columbine was a turning point for national acknowledgment of bullying, although research had already been going on in other countries,” said Hodges, who holds a master’s in counseling and is a licensed professional counselor. She also coordinates the Partners in Peer Mediation Program, a conflict resolution program for students.

Cyberbullying is defined as bullying through E-mail, instant messaging, in chat rooms, Web sites or through digital messages/images sent to a cell phone.

Bullying involves an imbalance in power or strength, and bullied students have difficulties defending themselves.

“A student is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time to negative actions on the part of one or more students,” Hodges related.

A bullying myth, Hodges says, is that bullying is physical. The most prevalent bullying reported by students is verbal bullying.

Relating to cyber-bullying, the myth is that the general public thinks that boys have the largest participation in any sort of bullying activities.”On the contrary, where cyber-bullying is concerned, girls are more involved than boys,” Hodges said.

Hodges recommends a proactive approach to bullying by school districts. Students need to know that bullying isn’t tolerated in schools. Problems with bullying can’t be ignored.

“When a student reports an incident of bullying, action should be taken,” she said. “To not take action sends one of two messages to students: teachers and administrators are ineffective or school leaders don’t care that students don’t feel safe in schools.

The good news, she says, is that districts are taking bullying issues seriously and dealing with them in effective ways as training and information is made available.

For more information about bullying or cyber-bullying in schools, call the Center for Safe and Secure Schools, Harris County Department of Education, (713) 696-0770.

Facts about cyber-bullying/bullying:

  • 61 percent of children 13-17 have a personal profile on a social network computer site. Half of these profiles include photos, oftentimes provocative. Furthermore, 95 percent list a personal E-mail address; 84 percent post a screen name for IM-ing; 14 percent report having a personal meeting with an online acquaintance; and 30 percent are considering a face-to-face meeting. (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Cox Communications Take Charge.)
  • Bullies are four times as likely to have three or more convictions by age 24. (Olweus Bullying Prevention Program)


HCDE press release

About Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools: For more than 118 years, Harris County Department of Education (HCDE), a nonprofit tax-assisted organization, has been dedicated to the equalization of educational opportunity and to the advancement of public schools through visionary leadership, shared resources and innovative programs. HCDE’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools works with school districts to promote schools as a safe haven for students and staff. The Center has emerged as one of America’s first regionally focused operations that contractually network schools and other government resources to help educators keep children safe during times of crisis. Research and resources from the Center are devoted to improving crisis awareness among area schools and helping them to develop proactive preparedness and intervention plans.

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