As schools wrestle with how best to combat bullying in the age of social media, and in the wake of a Stamford 12-year-old’s arrest this week in a bullying case, administrators and law enforcement are struggling to define and track the often elusive problem.
“I think it’s great that our society is finally taking this seriously, but we need to look at these situations that are very complex,” said Marji Lipshez-Shapiro, education director for the Anti-Defamation League’s Connecticut chapter.
A Courant review of state education records shows that more than 1,250 incidents of school bullying were reported to the state from 2005 to 2012. The state’s largest cities — Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven — reported the most incidents in the period, with Hartford reporting 91 verified incidents, the state’s statistics indicate.
The Stamford girl was charged with disorderly conduct on Tuesday for repeatedly bullying another student at the private middle school they both attended, police said. The school, Trailblazers Academy, said on Thursday that it was a case of a friendship gone bad and a failure to “communicate clearly about their differences.”
Lipshez-Shapiro said that she has been working to find solutions to bullying for more than 20 years and that the culture has made great strides in that time.
“In 1995, I started a program called ‘Names Can Really Hurt Us,'” she said. “When I started it, I couldn’t find one book on bullying. Literally, I went all over New York City and there was nothing. … Flash forward to now, when there’s probably 8,000-plus books on bullying, so it’s really changed in terms of society’s recognition on this issue in a really dramatic way.”
In order to combat bullying, educators, parents, and students, “need to be prepared with information so their talk about it is informed and not just operating out of anger and fear,” she added.