LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - After parents and students in Greater Lafayette raised concerns about bullying in local schools, NewsChannel 18 asked how administrators handle the problem.
After an eighth-grader from Tecumseh Junior High took his own life last week, some of his friends told us, he was bullied at school. While they said it's impossible to know how much of a factor that played in his suicide, their classmate's death opened the door to a conversation about making sure they treat each other with respect.
At a vigil Saturday for a classmate who took his own life, students in the Lafayette School Corporation spoke about being kinder to each other, and speaking up when bullying is going on.
"Why bully somebody? That's just going to lead to terrible things," said eighth-grader Crystal Curtis, who organized the vigil.
"I go to Jeff High School, and I get bullied every day," said Toni Hobson, a friend of the student who killed himself. "There's someone who brings me down. There's always someone who's going to say something."
While it's unknown how big a role bullying played in this student's suicide, Lafayette Schools Superintendent Ed Eiler said teachers and administrators will look into every case of bullying that's brought to their attention.
But he said it's key for victims or witnesses of bullying to speak up and tell an adult when it's happening. He said school staff will work to address the problem between bullies and victims, and a severe threat could lead to the bully being suspended or expelled.
"Your primary concern is with the victim," Eiler said. "And so you try to make as safe of an environment as you can for the victim."
Eiler said while bullying is a problem nation-wide, not every mean comment made from one student to another is technically "bullying."
Indiana state law defines bullying as actions or gestures that are "repeated," and intended to "harass, ridicule, humiliate, intimidate or harm" another student.
"Regardless of who's definition you're using, there is going to be a fine line between what is bullying and what's just borderline bullying. We just need to take the stance that respect is the way that we must go," said Rebecca Thrush, a former school counselor and CEO of Kokomo-based CyberCitizen.org .
She said social media has made bullying a 24-7 problem for some students. She works with students to change the conversation to one of respect and responsibility toward others.
To view the entire interview with Ed Eiler and Rebecca Thrush, watch the videos on this page.
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