JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's a problem that many parents worry about: bullying. Fifth grade student, Jacob Jones says his experience with bullying was terrifying. "I had real stomach aches and I had really bad nauseous feelings, I was just scared to death," he says.
Jacob won't be returning to the same school this year, in part, because ofbullying.His mother, Dawn McGill, says she didn't realize Jacob was being bullied. She said it took some time, but she eventually noticed that something was off withher son."Jacob is a very outgoing child. So when he was afraid, there were tell-tale signs. I started to put two and two together, and then finally a friend came to the door, and he refused to go outside,"she says.
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McGill says it wasn't until she went to the school's administration that something was done about the situation; Which is exactly what Duval County District Z.I.P. Counselor, Brenda Lane, says McGill should have done. Lane says not all problems are bullying.
She says the district's definition is very specific, "Bullying is a series, a pattern or behavior, that can be verbal, it can be physical, but it is to the level that it is severe and pervasive. It is also chronic, so it's repeated over time, and it's systematic. So, being systematic, it's almost like it's on purpose." Lane also says bullying victims must also feel as if the bully has power over them.
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Clinical counselor, Dr. Michele Fleming, says kids should work on standing up for themselves, even if it's just internally. "You have to condemn the voices that are speaking against you. If they say you're stupid, you can't just say 'Aw yeah, I'm so stupid.' If they say, 'You're never going to amount to anything, you're a nerd, you're an idiot.' You can't agree with that. You have to go, 'No, I have value,'" she says.
Fleming says bullying, especially when it's done verbally, can have lasting effects. "If our soul, which is our mind, our will, and our emotions, is damaged, we're damaged. We damage how we view ourselves, our future, what our capabilities are, if we're smart, if we're stupid. Kids are being damaged in the way they view themselves and what their potential is," Fleming says.
Both McGill and Fleming offer similar advice for parents: "Pay attention. Be involved. Watch for signs," McGill says.
"Parents have to be aware to recognize it. Because if you don't identify the problem, you're not going to be able to help your children," explains Fleming.
Fleming says other warning signs that your child might be getting bullied include: a dramatic drop in grades, a change in eating or sleeping habits, and emotional outbursts.
First Coast school districts have a broad range of bullying programs.
Contact your child's school to learn details of what is being taught and how bullying is defined and handled.