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Public told of dangers of bullying

By Staff, 05/4/17 11:02 AM


PRESCOTT – A small group gathered at Munn’s Chapel Baptist Church Wednesday night for an anti-bullying seminar.

A panel was brought together to discuss the bullying problem in Prescott and what can be done to deal with it. Everyone agreed bullying is a dilemma that can lead to depression, suicides and possibly homicides. Victims, it was said, tend to lose their sense of self-worth and can either begin harming themselves, or look for those weaker to bully themselves to regain some semblance of control and power.


Freda Thomas, a clinician, spoke first, saying she lost her father to suicide and this is a topic that needs to be talked about. According to Thomas, suicide is the third leading cause of death in those ages 10-24, the second leading cause of death for college age students and more than 40 percent of teenagers think about suicide at some point.

“I learned the term bullycide,” she said, “which is where people commit suicide because of bullying. This is a serious issue.” In many cases, Thomas said, the victims are bullied physically, mentally and emotionally and often feel they have no one they can turn to for help. However, she added, these young people often show signs of their intentions by giving away prized objects or talking about how they won’t be a problem for anyone much longer.

Anyone seeing such behavior, she said, should report it because these are warning signs that the person is considering suicide. Other signs include truancy, changes in eating habits, nightmares and unexplained injuries. Thomas pointed out siblings can bully one another and this shouldn’t be taken lightly either.

“We tend to focus on the victims,” she said, “but we need to look at the bully because there’s a reason for their actions.


Tracy Graham, deputy prosecutor for the Eighth Judicial District, talked about the legal issues involved in bullying, telling the young people in the audience bullying can affect their future careers, and could see them in court, possibly in jail.

She said there’s bullying and cyberbullying. Bullying is the intentional harassment or threat to others or school employees and can be written, verbal or physical that result in the orderly disruption of school operations. Cyberbullying involves the use of electronic devices such as computers, tablets and smart phones.

Graham pointed out students who take explicit photos of themselves and send them to their boyfriend or girlfriend don’t realize the people they send the photos to may send them to others, who may post them online – and once the photos are posted online, they’re there permanently. Or, the couple could break up and one or the other do the posting themselves.

“Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back,” she said. Graham pointed out children 10 and up can be prosecuted criminally for bullying and/or cyberbullying. This can result in their being put on probation, doing community service, being sent to a juvenile detention center, or in extreme cases, being placed in the care of the Division of Youth Services. In some cases, these children can be charged as adults and would have none of the protections they have as juveniles.

Cyberbullying, she continued, is done with electronic devices or social media. Anyone found guilty of cyberbullying could be given 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000. If a school employee is cyberbullied, she said, the crime jumps up to a class A misdemeanor and the jail time and fines are increased.

Children under 10 who bully can wind up in the Family In Need of Service (FINS) program, which puts them in the legal system and could also affect their future lives and careers. “We can track people’s online footprint,” she said. “The best thing is to be nice to each other. There’s no need to be man.”


Corey Bennett, youth minister from First Baptist Church, talked about being a bully during his younger days because he was, himself, bullied and developed anger issues which led to his picking on those younger and weaker than himself. Teens today, he said, seem to think the idea is to hurt others before they can be hurt.

He talked about growing up without a father, and how he ignored bullying when it went on around him, which resulted in his being linked with the bullies. He suggested parents mentor their children because children today are learning to be adults from the media, their friends and social media.


Former Prescott Police Chief Brian Russell talked about how people who are “less desirable” tend to be those who are bullied because they’re poor or don’t have the right appearance or the right last name.

The problem, he said, is young people aren’t showing self-respect to themselves or others. “It’s not always the parents fault. There are contributing factors, especially if the behavior is encouraged.”

Children, he continued, need to be taught to notify others when they are bullied or see bullying going on, and trust and respect their parents enough to talk to them about what’s going on. “They need to have real discussions before it gets to the legal system, and it’s up to the community to recognize it. It takes a strong person to stand up and stop this.”


Jeffrey Williams, with the Department of Human Services, said there are no foster children in Nevada County. He told about the time a three-year-old was placed in a foster home and refused to be bullied by one of the children in the home. The toddler, he said, wound up getting beaten by the other child who used a dog chain. In another case, he said, a 12-year-old boy was placed in a facility with others up to the age of 18. The boy was forced to perform sexual acts by another boy in the facility. At his wits end, the 12-year-old took a knife from the school and tried to kill the other boy.

Williams talked about how he was bullied by a girl in the system, who demanded he do things for her because she knew how the system worked and how to play it. In the end, he said, he got a judge to release her so she would stop bullying him. “I have no idea what happened to her. When someone tries to help you, don’t bully them.”


Sonja Lucas, with Day Springs, said part of the problem with bullying tends to be a cycle because a lot of bullies were themselves bullied. She encouraged parents to know what’s going on in their children’s lives and whether they are bullying or being bullied. She pointed out sometimes bullies turn on those in their own circle and bully them.


Edie Greenwood, with the Arkansas Department of Health, said a lot of girls find themselves in situations that cause bullying, and reminded those in the audience girls can also bully boys. “Bullying can happen to anyone. It’s not just a school problem, it happens everywhere,” she said, “even in church. Bullying is everyone’s problem.”

Children, she continued, tend to fear retaliation or being labeled as a snitch, so they don’t report bullying. She had a child in the audience come up for a role play on bullying. The child was “bullied”, with an adult watching what was going on. The child was asked what he wanted the person watching to do. His response was “snitch”.

She called Robert Poole, superintendent of the Prescott School District, up to discuss the issue. He said the ones who really need to hear what’s being said weren’t at the seminar. He talked about how he was a bully in school and in a group that bullied others. Now, he told the audience, most of the phone calls he get are from parents complaining about their children being bullied.

Bullying, he said, can happen to anyone at anytime and anywhere, and everyone has their breaking point. “We need to teach children how to deal with bullying. It will take a community effort and we’re all in this together.”

He talked about how the upcoming special election for the district to refinance its bonded indebtedness will use part of the money, if it passes, to upgrade security and purchase more cameras for the district.


Robert Missey, a deputy with the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, said children need to understand officers are here for law enforcement and to help the public. Some officers, he said, go by the book which gives people the wrong impression of officers. People, he continued, are more comfortable with officers they can talk to. He pointed out how Russell still knows what’s going on because people in the community know they can talk to him.

Sometimes, he said, people just need to talk, to vent. “I tell officers with the PPD and NCSO to go out and talk to people. To listen and find out what’s really going on and go from there. Officers here do care and want everyone to be safe.”


Poole took center stage again to discuss Tuesday’s special election. He said it’s not a millage increase, but will refinance the district’s existing bonds. “This is for the kids, for more security in the district.” Part of the funds will also be used to put a new roof on Prescott High School, to install air conditioning in the Prescott Sports Arena and to purchase new seating for the PHS auditorium.

Voting, he said, will be done in the lobby of PHS, and is open to all district residents.


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