Medford Bullying Pt. 3: Tackling the bullying problem

MEDFORD, Ore. — Over the past few days, NBC5 News has been sharing an exclusive report of a Medford mother who says her daughter was viciously bullied for months at a local elementary school. Although she says putting her family in the spotlight wasn’t easy, she wanted to share her story with us to raise awareness about bullying in the hopes that another child doesn’t have to endure something like this ever again.

“I don’t want to be the parent that finds my child. I don’t want my child to be a statistic. I don’t want that, it’s a devastating thought,” said Trina, a mother who says her daughter was bullied at Lone Pine Elementary.

Trina says her daughter was the victim of incessant and vicious bullying this year at Medford’s Lone Pine Elementary. And it got so bad that after months of asking for help, the district launched a formal investigation.

It found there was bullying taking place and created a safety plan for her daughter, which the alleged bully violated according to the school’s principal.

“This was me asking them what changes, now that we have a report, and nothing changed,” she said.

Despite its efforts, Trina felt the district wasn’t doing enough to protect her daughter, so she did the one thing she said she swore she wouldn’t do and pulled her out of school.

“I’m not alone. I’m not even a little bit alone,” Trina said. “There are parents all over this valley that are struggling with the exact same thing.”

According to recent data, she’s right.

The National Center for Educational Statistics says more than one in every five 12 to 18-year-old students report being bullied.

According to the Oregon Department of Education, Oregon law requires all schools to adopt a policy prohibiting harassment intimidation, bullying, and cyberbullying.

It includes requiring employees to report any acts of bullying, allowing students and volunteers to report bullying, creating a district-wide procedure that allows for a prompt and uniform investigation into reports of bullying and other types of harassment.

“We all wish that our kids were in the hands of committed people for their best interests within education,” said Paul Coughlin, founder of anti-bullying non-profit, ‘The Protectors.’ “And many people can feel that way but, of course, it’s not across the board.”

A lack of effective means of dealing with bullying is what motivated former Medford resident, Paul Coughlin, to start his Bend non-profit, ‘The Protectors,’ 12 years ago.

“I was bullied in elementary school [and] I was bullied in my home, so I know what it’s like to not want to live another day,” he said.

Coughlin says he often works with students in grades four through nine which he calls “ground zero” for bullying behavior.

“They’re literally being bullied into their bedroom. When they bring that cell phone into their bedroom and they look at what’s being said on Instagram, on Facebook, and Snapchat,” he said.

From his experience, Coughlin says it’s not the school, kids, or parents that are the sole problem, it’s a culture that needs to change.

“Martin Luther King talked about the fatigue of despair, that when a person is beleaguered hope begins to drain out of them. And that’s what’s happening to our kids with these horrible statements they make to one another,” he said.

But Coughlin says there are many things parents can do to help.

“We need to stop parenting in a style that is coercive because that tends to lead to bullying kids,” he said. “We need to stop over parenting because, in some cases, overparenting can lead to targets of bullying.”

Coughlin says kids who are bullied are far more likely to develop depression and contemplate or attempt suicide. However, he says there are warning signs parents can spot.

“Pains in their stomachs, headaches they didn’t have before, eating too much, [and] eating too little,” he said. “Sudden outbursts of anger, for example, towards siblings or parents that just didn’t happen before.”

Coughlin says there is no easy answer to stopping bullying, but he believes empowering people to step in and stand up to the bully is a great start.

“I am heartbroken and I have grown well past being tired of talking to parents across the United States who lost their child either do completely to bullying or in part to bullying… this needs to stop,” he said.

Trina agrees; she says her daughter and her daughter’s best friend leaving the school was never an ideal solution.

“She will not get to graduate with the sixth-grade class… and that’s okay,” she said. “It just feels like they’ve given up a lot when they weren’t at fault and it was proven that they weren’t at fault?”

The Medford School District said it is taking bullying seriously. It announced late Thursday that it will hold a public forum addressing bullying concerns from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday May 28th at Hedrick Middle School.

If a child is still afraid to come forward, there’s always an anonymous reporting website and app. It’s called “SafeOregon” and it allows kids to report school safety threats to a 24/7 tipline.

According to the program’s most recent annual report, bullying was the number one reported incident.

For more information, click here.

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