NBC Montana found out a new, national survey identifies bullying as one of the top two most pressing issues for Montana students. We showed the survey to parents to see what they thought.
Missoula mom Melissa Cohen says her own son has had problems with bullies and she felt like the school didn’t do enough to protect him. “My son had trouble with a bully on the bus and we talked to the school about it and they just kind of 'oh well we'll deal with it, we'll deal with it,' said Cohen. “It just seems it always gets brushed under the table.”
Now she worries about other kids and she's not alone. In 2002 only nine states had anti-bullying laws; today Montana is the only state without a comprehensive, state wide anti-bullying law.
The Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey, given to Montana high school students, reports over one quarter of Montana students say they've were bullied on school property in the last year.
“Something needs to be done,” said Missoula resident and mom Beth Disney. “I know Montana has a high suicide rate too and that's going to attribute to it also and think it's horrible that it happens.”
The behavior survey also reports 40 percent of students say they believe bullying is a problem in their school. Parents like Cohen say this has to change.
“Having more anti-bullying programs because kids don't want to go to school because they feel scared and threatened that something is going to happen and they're going to get hurt,” said Cohen. “Kids now-a-days have brought gun and knives to school and threatened people with those.”
NBC Montana talked with anti-bullying advocates who say safety in schools in “non-negotiable.” Coordinator of the Montana Safe Schools Center, John Frederikson, says it’s crucial kids feel safe at school. “Until kids are feeling safe both physically, emotionally and psychologically there isn't going to be any learning taking place,” said Frederikson.
The Montana Board of Regents requires every school have its own bullying policy, but there's no comprehensive statewide law. “It's kind of embarrassing that Montana is the only state in the union whose legislature has not passed an anti-bullying law,” said Frederikson. “I think the adults working in schools would like that to support their efforts at keeping their students safe.”
“We need to protect our children and not only in school, but it happens outside of school too,” said Disney. “We need laws inside the school and we need the laws outside the school to protect them; they're our children, they're our future and they're not being protected right now.”