October marks bullying prevention month.
According to a recent study by Wallet Hub, Louisiana ranks number one for the state with the biggest bullying problem.
The survey was based on different factors like the percentage of students who were bullied either online or on school property and the percentage of students who missed school out of a fear of bullying.
You can read more about that study here.
Tuesday night in New Iberia, Chez Hope held an anti-bullying rally.
They used dancing, prayer and speeches to help spread a message against bullying.
“Unfortunately, social media has given a new form of bullying and the cyberbullying is very, very real. You know the saying sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me? That’s not true. Words go on and on and on and they play like a recorder and they can shape who you are in your adult life,” said Sharon Russo with Chez Hope.
Whether it’s name-calling, taunting or physical harm, bullying can have long-term effects on some victims.
“Sometimes kids think just teasing but it’s repeated. It’s over time and it’s with an intent to harm,” said Darlene French, the comprehensive learning support system specialist in Iberia Parish School District.
Some kids at the rally even came forward to share their experiences, tearing up as they re-lived what happened to them.
“They pushed me around, called me ugly. One time in PE, we were outside and they pushed me in the mud and I got all dirty,” said 10-year-old Aniyah Lewis.
She knows firsthand how detrimental bullying can be.
“It just felt like no one cares. Some of my friends, they were just looking and laughing and it was like okay you don’t care. And inside I felt like no one was there to help me,” she said.
She was bullied in school for years and held it in without telling anyone until eventually, it took a toll on her physically.
“One night she had a seizure and the doctor asked me if I had heard of something called conversion disorder,” Lewis’ mom, Monique Sam said. “He told me conversion disorder is something that happens mentally and then starts affecting your physical body. She started to have trouble with her sight, wet the bed and trouble with her balance.”
Most importantly, Tuesday night’s message is: if you see something, say something because being a buddy and not a bully can help change someone’s life.
“Because when you stand by and you don’t say anything, it’s like you agree. When you stand up or try to intervene, that is a huge thing for someone who is being bullied,” said French.
“Now I don’t have to worry about anyone bullying me because I can stand up for myself,” said Aniyah.
We took a look at Louisiana’s bullying laws, which are implemented in every public school system across the state.
They say that if bullying happens on school property, it must be reported to the principal who must then investigate.
In some cases, like cyberbullying that can happen between students off-campus, law enforcement gets involved.
According to state law, bullying is defined as a pattern of any one or more of the following:
(a) Gestures, including but not limited to obscene gestures and making faces.
(b) Written, electronic, or verbal communications, including but not limited to calling names, threatening harm, taunting, malicious teasing, or spreading untrue rumors. Electronic communication includes but is not limited to a communication or image transmitted by email, instant message, text message, blog, or social networking website through the use of a telephone, mobile phone, pager, computer, or other electronic devices.
(c) Physical acts, including but not limited to hitting, kicking, pushing, tripping, choking, damaging personal property, or unauthorized use of personal property.
(d) Repeatedly and purposefully shunning or excluding from activities.
You can read more on how bullying is handled in Louisiana school’s here.