Montana ranks among highest for bullying - what you can do to help

A recent Wallet Hub study reveals Montana is the fourth worst state for bullying, but the Treasure State also came out on top for its anti-bullying laws.

That's in part because of the Bully Free Montana Act, passed last year by the legislature. It requires all schools to have policies for addressing bullying, not only at school, but also on buses, at school sponsored activities and online.

Tracy Moseman is the school healthy unit director with the Office of Public Instruction. She said the office tries to educate kids, parents and educators to combat bullying at the community level. She added that even without the legislation work was already being done to combat bullying.

"We've really tried to put together a comprehensive plan knowing that bullying doesn't just happen between 8 and 3 during the school day, that oftentimes the bullying issues that play out at school are a result of things that may have happened over the weekend or on social media," she said. That plan includes providing resources for teachers and parents online.

Moseman said much of their focus in schools is on teaching kids the right social skills. For example, it's important for kids to learn how to advocate for themselves and be assertive, not aggressive.

At home, educating yourself and your kids is one of the most important things you can do to stop bullying. Make sure you have a copy of your school’s bullying policy and procedures.

Kids may be too embarrassed or nervous to tell you about a bullying incident outright, so listen in when you’re just talking about your days. Let them know they should report bullying if it happens. You should share your concerns with school personnel and ask how they plan to deal with the incident.

You can also monitor your kids' online activity, where a lot of bullying can takes place.  It may even be smart to have their passwords on hand.

“It used to be that kids could go home and be in a safe space where there was some protection and shelter from that and now with 24/7 access to technological devices kids don’t always necessarily feel that reprieve at home the way they used to,” Moseman said.

Remind kids they should never physically fight a bully. Above all, never ignore a child’s report.

You can find tons of resources on the Bully Free Montana website.

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