A central Indiana family is sharing how they took action to stop bullying when their little girl became a target, and how the organization that helped them is working to make sure other schools have the proper resources to deal with bullying.
Twelve-year-old Anylah was the target of bullies last year.
“It made me feel sad, and like, I couldn’t control it,” said Anylah.
At first, her grades dropped, then her self-esteem.
Anylah’s mother, Dorie, took action when she noticed the changes in her little girl. She says she called the school several times about the bullying and when nothing changed she arranged an in-person meeting with school administrators.
“After I actually went to the school, there were no more issues,” said Dorie. “Be diligent with the school, voice your opinion.”
Kim Harvey founded the anti-bullying non-profit “Angels & Doves” and helped Anylah and her mother tackle bullying at their school, but she says not all students are as lucky as Anylah.
With students heading back to class, Harvey says now is the time for parents to keep a close eye on their kids and watch for signs of them being bullied.
“Be very watchful during the first 30 days of the school year because a lot of bullying is initiated then,” said Harvey. “The kids that have decided to be bullies are coming back to school ready to pounce on targets."
Harvey said most bullying starts within the first month after kids go back to school.
“If somebody’s being bullied, they look sad; they look a little depressed. They’re more quiet then they’ll start spending time by themselves a lot more because they’re afraid,” said Harvey.
She says you should also watch for changes to your child’s normal routine.
“Sometimes they stop eating. Sometimes they don’t want to take a shower at night; they don’t sleep well. They have nightmares, and sometimes they’re crying,” said Harvey.
If you do notice an issue, Harvey advises talking to your child and then going to the principal and your child’s favorite teacher, so more than one educator knows about the problem.
She also tells parents that they need to have open communication with their child.
“Everyday when they come home say ‘how was school? Did you meet anybody new? Anything on your mind, anything happen?'"
Harvey has put together what she calls “anti-bully boxes” which contain educational materials, videos and books that she distributes to schools.
She teaches kids to tell a trusted adult about bullying and to surround themselves with support.
“Try to find a friend, get a buddy and walk down the halls with that buddy. Go to lunch with that buddy, talk on the phone with that buddy,” said Harvey.
A new law, prompted by a Call 6 investigation, went into effect on July 1 that holds schools accountable for how they report bullying to the state.
It requires the Indiana Department of Education to send out reminders to schools about their bullying reporting duty.
The law also allows the Indiana Department of Education to audit schools to ensure they’re reporting bullying accurately, and also requires IDOE survey schools to find out what’s preventing them from reporting accurately.
The survey report will be shared with the legislature and posted on the IDOE website.
If you do have an issue with a bully at school, anti-bullying experts offer the following steps:
- Walk away from the bully and try not to engage them.
- Try to stay away from places where the bullying happens, especially in areas where no adults are around
- Don’t keep it to yourself. Tell a trusted adult as much information as you can: The bully’s name, where it happened and exactly what happened.
They also offer the following advice to parents:
- Tell your child they will not get in trouble for telling and that there are people who will help them
- Follow through by meeting with school administrators
- Be aware of the warning signs