Originally Published in Pine Bluff Commercial – August 6, 2018
It was in the third grade that Alexandrina Parker of Pine Bluff noticed her son, Cole Parker, returning home from school in the evening with bruises on his arms from progressive bullying.
The young student, who is currently enrolled at Arkansas Virtual Academy, first became a victim of bullying in kindergarten when he attended public school.
His days began as any other student’s day would — he arrived at school in the morning, absorbed the lesson of the day, joined his peers on the playground, and completed his homework as expected.
As time went on, Cole’s mother began to notice that her normally-studious son’s grades were taking a turn for the worse. It was when she noticed bruises appearing on his arms that she decided to probe into the situation and figure out what was to blame.
“Kids would just start saying things or just rumors,” said Alexandrina, giving some insight into the bullying he experienced during his public school days. “Maybe, trying to fight me and that type of bullying in general.”
According to stopbullying.gov, a government organization aimed at ending bullying, children who are bullied can experience a range of issues, such as depression, anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
Decreased academic achievement, as in Cole’s case, is also not uncommon among students who are repeatedly bullied, according to the website. Bullied kids are also more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
The concerned mother, partnering with her son’s then-principal, volunteered her time to photograph events for the school where she would keep an eye on the treatment her child was receiving from other students throughout the day. During Cole’s fifth grade year, his mother had even dedicated her time to helping out with the school’s yearbook.
“When he went to the schools here in Pine Bluff, it started in kindergarten. But it really progressed, you know, the bullying with him, probably into the third grade,” Alexandrina said. “And I started noticing that he had bruises on his arms, and finally, I noticed his grades … you know, he’s an over-achiever, but sometimes his grades wouldn’t be where they should be. I finally sat him down and I said ‘what is going on?’ and he finally told me that he was being picked on a lot.
“So his fifth-grade year I ended up volunteering so much, I ended up being the photographer for them basically … I would take pictures, just sitting there. You know cause sometimes instead of the teachers just watching the students, they’re standing over there chit-chatting instead. Not really taking a look at the playground and seeing what’s going on.”
Upon graduating elementary school, she began looking into alternative learning options for her child and was recommended to the Arkansas Virtual Academy, an online public school that allows students to receive an education at no cost to the family by certified instructors.
Catering to students in kindergarten through 12th grade, ARVA operates like a traditional public school by providing their students with laptops, lunch, reading materials and such. The virtual public school also goes as far as to send students lab equipment via mail in order for them to complete lab assignments and experiments.
Students who attend the virtual academy have the opportunity to connect one-on-one with their teachers, complete assignments through the online portal, and mingle with local ARVA students on meet-ups to various places like the Delta Rivers Nature Center and Barnes and Nobles, according to ARVA officials.
“The difference for me is just the setting,” Alexandrina said, highlighting the difference between ARVA and traditional public schools. “You have a teacher in the regular public school with 30 students, and yeah the students can do one-on-ones after school … but the academy is more of a college prepatory. They have to take state exams just like everybody else.”
Last year, the then-freshman was the first virtual academy student to join the JROTC program at Watson Chapel High School.
During his time in the program, Cole received an award for his participation in an Academic Bowl after the JROTC program made it to state, an award for his community service efforts during Hurricane Harvey, and the Central Arkansas West Point Society Honor Award.
Cole, who was active in various clubs in public school, has continued to participate in clubs like the Chess Club, Engineering, and Robotics while at ARVA. He said he also enjoys playing virtual rounds of chess with his peers and teacher, just like they would in person.
Finishing out his previous semester with a 4.6 GPA, Cole said he recommends other young students with a similar story to look into ARVA.
“It’s a lot safer, and a really low chance of being bully cause it’s not in person,” he said. “Besides the outings, everyone is super nice … so I find it much more safe.”
Cole has two years left in ARVA and said that he has added West Point to his list of potential schools after graduation but will continue to keep his options open for now.
National statistics on bullying
28 percent of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying.
20 percent of U.S. students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying.
Approximately 30 percent of young people admit to bullying others in surveys.
70.6 percent of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools.
70.4 percent of school staff have seen bullying. 62 percent witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41 percent witness bullying once a week or more.
When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57 percent of the time.
9 percent of students in grades 6–12 experienced cyberbullying.
15 percent of high school students (grades 9–12) were electronically bullied in the past year.
However, 55.2 percent of LGBTQ students experienced cyberbullying.
How Often Bullied
In one large study, about 49 percent of children in grades 4–12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once during the past month, whereas 30.8 percent reported bullying others during that time.
Defining “frequent” involvement in bullying as occurring two or more times within the past month, 40.6 percent of students reported some type of frequent involvement in bullying, with 23.2 percent being the youth frequently bullied, 8.0 percent being the youth who frequently bullied others, and 9.4 percent playing both roles frequently.3
Types of Bullying
The most common types of bullying are verbal and social. Physical bullying happens less often. Cyberbullying happens the least frequently.
According to one large study, the following percentages of middle schools students had experienced these various types of bullying: name-calling (44.2 percent); teasing (43.3 percent); spreading rumors or lies (36.3 percent); pushing or shoving (32.4 percent); hitting, slapping, or kicking (29.2 percent); leaving out (28.5 percent); threatening (27.4 percent); stealing belongings (27.3 percent); sexual comments or gestures (23.7 percent); e-mail or blogging (9.9 percent).