MINSTER — Minster high school and middle school students were asked to pledge to stop verbal, physical, relational and online bullying Friday afternoon during a special assembly that focused on leadership.
Speaker Jerry Ackerman illustrated the problem, noting while verbal and physical bullying are common, and relational bullying occurs when a group ostracizes outsiders, many students would text or post online material that they would never say to a person.
That’s an act he called cowardly.
He also brought up that while only 4 to 5 percent of students bully, and another 4 to 5 percent get picked on, while 90 percent of bullying incidents are witnessed.
“God bless ‘em teachers can’t stop it,” Ackerman said, noting the most active bullying time of the day is between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., when students are online or using their phones to text message.
According to the Wall Street Journal three weeks ago, Ackerman said, 13 to 18 percent of students sleep within a foot of their cell phone and 36 percent send more than 100 text messages per day.
When he asked for a show of hands at Minster, about a quarter of students said they texted more than 100 messages per day. Almost all agreed they slept within a foot of their cell phone.
Principal Mike Lee told The Evening Leader that a person would have to be looking with blinders on to think bullying doesn’t occur at Minster, but most cases happen outside of school, online, or are not reported.
It’s escalated, Lee said, because the students are all online.
At a talk in Missouri, Ackerman said the school principal estimated he had 45 parents per month coming into his office waving their students’ cell phone after finding inappropriate messages.
In many cases, the messages were threatening enough to involve the police, the principal told Ackerman.
Students were asked to meet a person they didn’t know, introduce themselves, and share a personal detail about themselves.
After the students completed the exercise, Ackerman asked them to pledge to watch out for that person and to stand up for them.
They were encouraged to, within the next week, meet three to five people they could commit to stepping in to protect from bullying. Ackerman said he believes that if the students stood up against bullying, the problem would stop.
“Time to get off the fence because there is no fence in this issue,” he said.