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Bullying A Growing Concern In Baltimore County Schools

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Ritchie Rochelle 175x131 L Rochelle Ritchie
Rochelle Ritchie joined WJZ Eyewitness News in June 2012. Prio...
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BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — Combating school bullying. Top school leaders to address the growing problem that’s contributed to a number of violent incidents across the nation, and sadly, some suicides.

Rochelle Ritchie has more on the tools that could help eliminate that problem.

Baltimore County school officials say bullying is a problem that goes far beyond the classroom, and they want to make sure their teachers are fully capable of responding before it’s too late.

Grace McComas, 15, of Howard County took her own life last year after being cyber-bullied. One message to the teenage girl, saying:

“I hope you somehow see this and cry yourself to sleep then kill yourself… Might as well, you’re a worthless piece of…”

“Those things shouldn’t be allowed. They are damaging to people who are just getting to know who they are,” said Christine McComas, victim’s mother.

It’s these kinds of stories and messages that pushed Baltimore County Schools to make sure teachers see the signs of bullying and respond.

“We know that one out of three children is either a bully or a victim right now,” said Dr. Michele Borba.

With the help of clinical psychologist, Dr. Michele Borba, Baltimore County teachers are gaining the necessary tools to stop their kids from being targeted.

Teachers aren’t just learning how to deal with bullying in the classroom, but also how to attack it online.

“That’s been a big issue I’ve seen in my classroom,” said Jonathan Hughes, teacher.

Grace’s suicide pushed Maryland legislators to pass a bill, making cyberbullying a misdemeanor.

“We cannot allow people to just preset these direct intimidating, threatening comments that are causing people to kill themselves,” said Dale Rauenzahn, School Safety & Security.

A key element for educators is recognizing who has the potential to be bullied and how to protect them.

“Mental health issues, depression, isolation, etc. are root causes of bullying in some of these behaviors,” Hughes said.

Dr. Borba says, sometimes, the most important lesson a teacher can give to save a life and prevent a crime is not found in the textbook.

“Character and culture matters dramatically in a school,” she said.

Experts say it’s also important for parents to hold their children responsible if they’re caught bullying.

The conference is a two day event.

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