How to prevent cyberbullying in schools

Hampton Roads mother, mental health experts weighs in on how to prevent bullying ahead of new school year

NORFOLK, Va. — School officially starts on Monday, August 28 for many school districts in Hampton Roads and northeast North Carolina.

As students head back to the classroom, mental health experts are urging parents to sit down with their kids to talk about their mental health and the negative impact that bullying can have.

“Back in 2012, one of my twin girls was brutally attacked on the school bus by her bully, which turned into an assault. She was kicked in the head for a total of 17 minutes on the bus,” said Shant’a Miller White, the Founder of Parents Against Bullying.

The school year had just started for Shant’a Miller White and her sixth-grade twin girls when the incident occurred.

“Several things were going on that were [leading] up to this attack that I did not see coming forth. Even though I was having conversations, because my girls are twins, they were talking among each other and not telling me,” said Miller White.

Talking to your kids about bullying is not an easy conversation, but mental health experts say it’s an important one to have.

“Prevention of bullying begins at home, and that initial conversation about what is acceptable, what is okay, and what is not okay,” said Dr. Sarah Williams, a licensed psychotherapist.

Miller White says her daughter spent 17 minutes shielding herself underneath a bus seat while her bully attacked her, while no one came to her rescue, leading her to have many seizures.

“There were many nights at the hospital, many nights at the ER, and many nights at CHKD. I want nobody else to feel like we felt: alone,” said Miller White.

According to the CDC, about one in five high school students report being bullied at school, while about one in six report being cyberbullied. Dr. Sarah Williams, a psychotherapist, says as kids head back to school, she encourages parents to talk to them about the signs of bullying.

“[Signs of bullying include] the child suddenly not wanting to go to school, a change in eating or sleeping patterns, withdrawal, isolation, and reluctance to participate in school activities,” said Dr. Williams.

Dr. Williams says crying and angry outbursts could also be signs that a child is being bullied. She says if parents notice their child exhibiting these behaviors, they should speak with a doctor or counselor, who can connect them with helpful resources.

“If parents have open dialogue then the child is more likely to report if something is not right in a classroom or online,” said Dr. Williams.

A new Virginia law now requires school principals to tell parents of alleged bullying incidents within 24 hours. Before, the law gave schools five days to inform the parents.

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