Nearly half of adults who attended last week's symposium on drug prevention, intervention and treatment had participated in bullying, been bullied or seen someone be bullied some time in the past year.
That was in response to a question posed by Michael Bogrov, service chief of the Inpatient Child Unit at Sheppard Pratt Hospital, who spoke at one of the morning workshops at the symposium at Patterson Mill High School last Wednesday to debunk some myths about bullying and address possible methods of prevention.
With about 20 people in attendance, Bogrov asked those in the room how many of them were bullied, had seen someone be bullied or had bullied somebody within the last year. Nearly half of the crowd raised their hands. When asked how many of these incidents involved adults and not children, the same amount of number raised their hands.
"Bullying doesn't go away after middle school," Bogrov said.
Bogrov said bullying has to do with an individual being coercive and using his or her status to reach a goal.
While there is most likely an underlying "psychiatric issue" with the bully, Bogrov said, it doesn't stem from insecurity or a lack of friends, like most people think.
The contrary is usually true, he explained.
Bullies "tend to be narcissistic [and] entitled," Bogrov said. "These are harder problems to deal with than being alone and insecure."
Bullying can happen in any kind of neighborhood and any kind of social or economic status, he continued, and those who are targeted get through "in spite of the bullying, not because of it."
Bogrov stressed, "Being bullied is not a good thing by any stretch [of the imagination]."
The key to defusing an incident or possibly prevent future bullying from happening is to "reward being nice," he said.
"Identify kids for their empathy and focus on that," Bogrov explained. "You can set the tone."
The point is to not verbally acknowledge the bully in question, but address the target or group of friends and praise them for ignoring the misbehavior and support that.
Teaching kids to problem solve is also crucial.
Bogrov said to begin with identifying the problem and then figure out what the goal is because "almost everyone agrees on the goal."
"We want kids to feel good about coming to school. We want parents to talk to us. Everyone agrees on that," he said.
After a goal has been established, look at different solutions and address whether it meets the goal.
"It's pretty obvious when you do it that way that [one thinks], 'I don't think that's going to work' or 'Yeah, this will work,'" Bogrov said.
Lynn Holmes, a teacher at Aberdeen Middle School, said middle school is the "most difficult time in every single solitary person's life."
Bullying, she added, is just "the nature of the beast of the middle school student." That's one reason she became a teacher, Holmes said, "because I remember what it feels like."
Holmes said she sees kids from all different backgrounds who are bullied and hopes to "get them to a place where they become a strong individual."
From that morning's workshop, Holmes said she "did gain some good insight."
"It's just a reinforcement that my role modeling is so important," she commented.
The teacher said it important to reward kids for good behavior rather, which is something the school does.
She explained the middle school gives students "Eagle bills" as a sort of currency when they do something thoughtful or kind, and they can use those bills to exchange them at a school store.
"I was really excited to see this symposium," Holmes said, especially the bullying workshop. She was even more thrilled to find out it was offered for free.