TAKING ACTION: Tips to recognize bullying, and where to report it

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Bullying can affect children in any community. As children prepare to head back to school across the Tennessee Valley in the coming days, WHNT News 19 is taking action to help you recognize the warning signs of bullying.

Through Bureau of Justice statistics within the 2016 Indicators of School Crime and Safety, data shows an adult was notified in nearly 39% of bullying cases. Experts say children may fear telling an adult, or be embarrassed about the bullying.

The data reveals that in 2015, about 21% of students ages 12–18 reported being bullied at school during the school year.

The report says that in 2015, "a higher percentage of self-identified gay, lesbian, or bisexual students than of self-identified heterosexual students reported that they had been bullied on school property during the previous 12 months."

StopBullying.gov compiled this list of signs a child is being bullied:

  • Look for changes in the child. However, be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs.

Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
  • If you know someone in serious distress or danger, don’t ignore the problem. Get help right away.

Donna Clark, Huntsville City Schools' Behavioral Learning Coordinator, said if students can not resolve the bullying problems themselves you should seek help.

"Don't let it go on," she said. "Definitely seek help with school folks. If it's cyber bullying or it's a threat, a home and safety issue, call the police."

She said the best way to help your child is to have all the information you can about what is going on.

"When is it happening? How often is it happening? Where does it happen? Who is doing it?" she asked. "Sometimes it's one student, sometimes it's a group of students doing it."

She added, "Just keep your eyes and ears open and ask many questions."

She said occasionally you may find the situation is not bullying, but some other form of aggressive behavior. You can read more about what bullying is and is not on this website.

If bullying is going on and your child attends Huntsville City Schools, Clark said the school system has a new bullying reporting tool you can use.

The form can be found here, or on the web page of every school in the district.

"It is comprehensive," she said. "On that form, we ask specific questions We want to get as much detail as we can so we can investigate. The who, what, where, when, why, how, and what type of bullying," she explained. "Is it physical bullying? Is it cyber bullying?"

She added that all the data goes to the school principals, depending on which school the victim attends. You can choose these options on the form.

The district says the form will be monitored from 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. and anything sent through it will be kept confidential. If you're having an emergency, the district still urges you to call 911.