Guest Column: Bullying is pervasive in Tucson, but educational efforts can help

2012-10-21T00:00:00Z Guest Column: Bullying is pervasive in Tucson, but educational efforts can helpRyan Watson Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Youth who are bullied are up to nine times more likely to die by suicide compared to youth who aren't bullied, and 160,000 students don't even go to school every day because they are afraid of attack or intimidation. These statistics demand action.

A recent inquiry into Tucson schools confirmed that bullying is not only pervasive, but that youth are being targeted because of who they are and how they look - characteristics oftentimes out of their control.

Another revelation is that many youth report not knowing what behaviors actually constitute bullying.

At the Crossroads Collaborative at the University of Arizona, our team brings stories and numbers together through action-oriented research with youth-serving organizations and youth from the community to amplify youth voice and share what we learn with the broader community.

In collaboration with Tucson youth and the YWCA Nuestra Voz social justice program, our team joined together in an effort to better understand, and to help stop bullying in Tucson schools.

On Monday, in collaboration with the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding's Anti-Bullying Task Force, we are releasing the results in a new research brief. More than 400 middle and high school students in Tucson told us about their experiences with bullying. Here's some of what we learned:

• Youth are most often bullied because of their sexual orientation and their weight.

• Youth who reported being bullied were more likely to bully others.

• One in 5 youth witnessed bullying every day in their school.

• While half of the youth said they did not bully others, almost 70 percent witnessed bullying.

• Twenty percent of young people do not know what constitutes cyberbullying; 10 percent don't know if they are bullying others.

These results are concerning, but there are effective ways to reduce and prevent bullying.

After young people in Tucson participated in the "Let's Get Real" anti-bullying program offered by the YWCA, youth reported being inspired to stop bullying. One young woman said she now had "a fire in her and the power to stop bullying."

Another student wrote that he "is bullied every day and if he stands up, it can change what the bully feels and thinks." Anti-bullying programs are clearly effective, but more can be done.

Aside from programs that educate youth about what constitutes bullying, we need youth, teachers, and administrators to intervene when bullying happens.

Community members can also advocate for anti-bullying policies and prevention programs in our schools. We need to step up and address bullying in our community because it has such a devastating and lasting effect on the young people of our community. Let's make change now.

Ryan Watson is a Crossroads Collaborative scholar and doctoral student in the Family Studies and Human Development program at the University of Arizona, and a National Science Foundation fellow. Email him at rjwatson@email.arizona.edu

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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