Headline after headline, arrest after arrest, violent fights are happening in our neighborhood schools and are being recorded and posted on social media sites.
It appears more and more of them involve girls, swinging and punching each other on campus. They are violent and humiliating. But in order to stop this kind of behavior, we have to understand why girls are doing it in the first place.
“I see a lot of angry kids. It’s not a sin, it’s a symptom,” says Lori Frazier, a mental health counselor at Hope Haven.
Frazier works with children and teens who have aggression problems. We found dozens of fights on social media sites and in many cases, teenage girls are looking for a fight and bring their friends along to videotape the confrontation.
Frazier tells Channel 4, “Someone who would plan it out, find someone to video it on the cell phone and then carry it out, that’s absolutely self-esteem.”
Besides a lack of self-esteem, Frazier says there are three other reasons teens turn to bullying. Depression is a reason. Also, Frazier says a teen who feels like she has no control or power in her life will use fighting to try and regain that control. The fourth reason points to parenting.
Frazier says, "I think parents are busy and there's not a lot of listening going on. That's what I see with parents and teenage girls. They get punished if they cause the parent to be embarrassed and inconvenienced, what will everyone think of me as a parent, that's reactive punishment."
She says she suggests the better form of discipline for a bullying teen, is to make them write a letter to the victim.
"Bullies need to understand how their actions make other people feel," said Frazier.
“There’s no real consequence that is administered in a lot of situations and once kids start spiraling out of control, there’s a whole new level of trouble. They really don’t care,” she explained.
Jacksonville attorney, John Phillips is trying to make it harder for bullies to be allowed back in school with the teen they attacked. He represents 14-year-old Aria Jewett.
In April, Jewett (shown, left, in hospital) was beaten unconscious. Her skull was fractured when she says she was attacked near Oceanway Middle school by another student, Paris Cannon. Cannon is charged with aggravated battery.
Like so many other similar fights, this one was also videotaped. The video has not been released to the public, but Phillips says he has seen it.
“You can hear in the video her saying, ‘you’re not pretty anymore, you’re not so pretty now, just jealous and awful,” Phillips explained.
This case is now getting a lot of legal attention, ever since Judge Henry Davis made an unusual ruling in Cannon's criminal case, banning her from attending any Duval County school.
“Somebody’s got to stand up and say enough. Whether it’s injunctions or kicking you out of every school in the County like Judge Davis did. You can’t do this, you’ve got to set a precedence,” says Phillips.
That is why Phillips says he’s talked with a state representative about adding to the current anti-bullying law. Right now, state law requires school districts to establish an anti- bullying program within their schools.
“But there’s no injunctive relief to keep that bully out of school, to keep them away from the victim. That’s where it needs to go a step further,” explained Phillips.
Phillips says he's just started talking with the representative about his suggestion and says he hopes it's something he can help push forward next legislative session.
If you are concerned about your teenager's behavior and suspect they may be bullying other children, Frazier says here’s what parents need to be on the lookout for:
- Is your daughter lying?
- Is your daughter stealing?
- Is your daughter being cruel to other family members, especially a younger sibling?
- Is your daughter experiencing aggressive outbursts that are out of character?
If so, she says that’s when it’s time to get professional help for bullying.
We also talked with Dr. Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Duval County's schools, about what his office is doing to stop bullying in class.
"We're proposing to put a dean of discipline in every middle and high school throughout the county. Someone just to focus on disciplinary issues, disciplinary referrals, meet with parents, problem-solve in getting to the root of why students may be making the wrong decision, " said Vitti.
He went on to say, "We're also looking at putting a full-time teacher in every in-school suspension setting so that when students are making the wrong decisions, students are placed in a time-out room, a separate environment for instruction, so they're removed from the regular environment."
Vitti also says the district has increased the guidance counselor to student ratio to help prevent behavior from happening. In addition, he says, "We're putting more security guards in our schools, for additional presence."