The More You Know: Suicide, Bullying, & Social Media Challenges
April 20, 2022
Suicide, bullying, and social media. These three topics have not only caused great heartache, but also divisiveness between patrons and many school systems, including our very own.
By continuing to address these issues, we hope we can work together for the benefit of our families.
Dr. Thurman Video:
Let us be clear, ONE is too many…
Suicide is not isolated to Cabot. It is a national issue. Preventing suicide deserves every bit of passion that we are currently seeing in our community. But we must recognize that for the sake of our kids, we need to be in this battle together.
It has be posted on social media that the Cabot School District has a “high percentage of students committing suicide due to bullying” and that “nothing is being done about it.”
The fact is there are no statistics regarding suicide and school districts. The most detailed information available is only reported at the county level. That information can be found HERE. Lonoke County falls in the middle and compares to other counties that are home to larger districts. Let us reiterate again, ONE is too many.
Rather than rumor, let’s focus on facts. Unfortunately, suicide rates among young people are increasing at an alarming rate nationally. According to the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death in Arkansas for ages 10-24.
Thankfully, and we mean that with our whole heart, our district has not experienced the suicide of an active student in several years. Throughout the years, we have taken specific measures to educate our students, parents, and community about suicide, bullying and mental health.
The district has hosted multiple suicide prevention and mental health community meetings, worked with local mental health providers and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to present the “More than Sad” program to 7-12th grade students, trained school counselors in ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), and offered safeTALK trainings to district employees and community members.
In 2018, Cabot High School also formed the LifeSavers Club, which became the first high school group in the United States to be recognized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. These students have made it their mission to raise awareness and teach lifesaving skills to their peers.
The “You Matter…You Are Enough” project also reached out to more than 2,000 high school students. Every CHS student was gifted a “I Am Enough” shirt with the goal of encouraging our youth to realize that life can be tough, but that they are strong, and most importantly, they are loved. Also, our district works closely on an almost daily basis with mental health agencies to identify and support those identified as at-risk for self harm. The fact is that we have not stopped and will continue to support our struggling students.
But we cannot do it alone. We need parents to communicate with us when their students are struggling, and we need to work together to support them. This is especially true when it comes to bullying.
Bullying is a nationwide epidemic. Not only does it happen in communities, in the workplace, and at school… but it also happens after school, including nights and weekends oftentimes through social media.
Bullying is defined as “repeated, unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. To be very forthcoming, please keep in mind that not every disagreement between students is bullying. Again, bullying as defined in statute is "repeated, unwanted, aggressive behavior."
It is becoming increasingly common to associate suicide with bullying. It is important to note that research shows young people at higher risk for suicide may often face other risk factors other than bullying such as a history of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or other health issues.
As a district, do we deal with bullying? Yes. Do we try to “sweep it under the rug?” No. Are we perfect and handle every situation correctly? Absolutely Not.
We acknowledge there is bullying and it is a challenge to manage. It is often said that bullying has gotten worse in the past few years. Isn't it ironic that this trend follows the increasing popularity of social media. Tik Tok, SnapChat, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Kik, WhatsApp, and other social media platforms amplify this challenge because students now have 24/7 access to one another. Sometimes that is okay, but many times it turns out to be not so good.
Be assured that any bullying issue that is brought to our attention is addressed. There is a perception that the district does not care and that administrators do not respond to the concern. Educators enter and stay in this profession because we do care. Statements that we are “turning a blind eye” are simply false.
Are there repercussions for bullying? Absolutely, but it is also not always appropriate for us to share all the actions taken by the district. Understand just because you do not hear about it, does not mean appropriate action has not been taken. Despite there being consequences for bullying, do we sometimes deal with a student that hasn’t learned a lesson? Absolutely, but there are progressively increasing consequences to follow.
If your student does share with you that they are being bullied, it is imperative to report it to your student’s building administrator. Please complete a Bullying Report Form. This provides you with documentation that it was appropriately reported. If a parent is not satisfied with how a report is being handled at the school level, the parent should bring it to the district level by contacting Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman or Assistant Superintendent Michael Byrd:
Michael Byrd, Asst. Superintendent
Dr. Tony Thurman, Superintendent
If a parent is still not satisfied and believes the issue has not been addressed, then they should contact the Cabot School Board. Their contact information can be found HERE.
Additionally, bullying can be reported through our Panther Tip Line.
The Fact of the Matter
Now, we would like to add some perspective.
The fact is the Cabot School District has over 10,500 PK through 12th grade students. The vast majority of our 10,500 students come to school everyday and have a great experience. Our students come to school, they have a good day with teacher and friends, they come home and we do it again the next day. It is understandable that you do not hear about those thousands of daily positive outcomes on social media, but please don’t forget that they occur. For those that may not have a good experience, we do want you to be involved in working with us to solve them as a team.
But again, we cannot do that without your help. The reality is that many times it is not reported to our staff or administrators when an incident occurs. Instead, it is brought to the district’s attention through social media. This immediately puts our administrators in a reactive mindset rather than working through challenges between students in a proactive manner. Respectfully, we ask that you give us the opportunity to address situations first.
Ultimately, we must all remain vigilant. The fact is that suicide, bullying and the overall mental health of our young people are at a crisis point. Please, if you are not monitoring what’s on your child’s social media, it’s imperative that you do so. There are many frightening trends happening with social media. Schools can attest to the fact that social media can negatively impact the overall well-being of kids. Being proactive will make a difference.
In closing, we believe that a good life lesson for all of us going forward is for adults to model behavior that we would expect from our young people. As an example, whether our interaction is in person or online, regardless of whether we are angry, upset or frustrated, just remember that name calling, threats, and demeaning others is what is causing so many problems. We can still set the standard by communicating with courtesy. It is not that difficult to do and what a difference it would make.
Thank you for your support of our students and staff.
Cabot School District Suicide, Bullying, & Mental Health Efforts (does not include all of the activities at individual schools)
Sharing Hope In Cabot - Fox 16 News 2018
Anti-Bullying School Assemblies/Parent Night - Photo Albums 2016