2 Works for You Against Bullying: How can we prevent students from being the victim of a bully

TULSA - It's a staggering statistic.  According to Center for Disease Control, 20 percent of high school students will be bullied.

These days the kids who are bullied are acting out, and sometimes violently.

Jennifer Livingston is the Wisconsin news anchor who re-ignited the conversation about what is acceptable. And she put bullying front and center.

"If you are at home and you are talking about the fat news lady, guess what? Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat," Jennifer said.

Truth be told, at just about every TV station in the country there are news reporters and anchors with countless stories of hateful emails, even here in Tulsa and at 2NEWS.

Green Country residents know Michelle Lowry as part of the Problem Solvers team. She will tell you her red hair makes her stand out. While that may be a good thing on TV, for her, it has not always been the case.

Freckled-faced and red-haired, some would say Michelle looked liked the All-American kid. But she will tell you she did not get an All-American treatment from other kids, especially from a group of girls back in the 4th or 5th grade.

"They started circling around me and I was afraid because I didn't know what they would do," Michelle said.

At times the other kids teased, shoved and even assaulted her, she said.

"Two of them actually pulled the shirt I was wearing off and ran into the bathroom and put it in the toilet. I went in, got it out, put it back on, and wore it for the rest of the day. I was in tears and completely humiliated," Lowry said.

Michelle says she never knew why she was picked on. Perhaps it was only because she stood out and was different. The pain stays with her still today.

"I know there are kids who are out there who are hurting, and I remember it. It still fresh more than 30 years later. And I just wish I could get through to any bully you are not making your life better. You are hurting someone else and hurting yourself," Lowry said.

Click on 2NEWS reporter talks about being bullied to read more of Michelle's story. If you're reading this on your phone, her story can be found here: http://bit.ly/lowrybullied

"When you are joking with your friends, is that bullying? I don't think so, but you don't know how that person receives it," said Amanda Miller, a student at Jenks High School.

To find out about bullying with kids today, we met with a church youth group of high school students from various schools in the Tulsa Metro.

All of them said bullying is a problem, and most admitted they are likely guilty of bullying at one time or another.

"I see bullying everyday. I have partaken. Sometimes it's just really easy to fall into," said Austin Nance, a student at Union High School.

Some couldn't say if their school even had a bullying program, others say they have not been very effective.

"Everyone turns it into a joke, so obviously it's not taken very seriously and it should be," said Sara Schueler, a student at Edison High School.

Some of the takeaways -- Boys thought bullying was worse for boys. Girls thought it was worse for them.

And when it comes to cyber-bullying and social media such as twitter, the boys and girls also disagreed.

"I never really seen negative tweets towards people. So I think the social media thing isn't that big of a problem as face-to-face," said Jordan Miller, a student at Union High School.

"I disagree. I think kids are more confident when you are not face-to-face with someone and you are more likely to say something you don't mean or wouldn't say face to face," said Bailey Amos, a student at Jenks High School.

But can bullying be prevented or is it inevitable?

"I think it is human nature to put yourself up against other people, but in time it can be changed where you see everyone as equal," said Charlie Tarwater, a student at Cascia High School.

"You look at racism. That has changed drastically in the last 50 to 60 years. So I feel like it will still be out there, but we can douse it. And it will change over time to where it is not as big of a deal as it is now," said Nance.

Steve Hahn with The Parent Child Center of Tulsa agrees. It will take time, but progress can be made.

The Parent Child Center has pulled 11 agencies under one umbrella to target bullying. They have the website PreventbullyingTulsa.org.

Steve said organizations can help, but stopping bullying begins with each individual.

"Not that all kids are going to get along because we know that doesn't happen, but just to take the social responsibility of being friendly to a person, and not isolate them and having them feel like they are apart is meaningful," Hahn said.

Some of the signs your child may be a victim of bullying, they don't want to be with friends, seem distant,  depressed, and their grades may be slipping.

But there is help available for more information about bullying, a suicide prevention hotline, and other ways to help from The Parent Child Center of Oklahoma.

2NEWS is taking a stand against bullying. It's the beginning of a major station initiative, and we are asking you, our viewers, to join 2 Works for You Against Bullying. Go to http://www.kjrh.com/bullying and let us know what's happening in your community.

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