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Lindhurst student takes stand against bullying
Percentage of students ages 12-18 who reported being bullied in 2009:
Made fun, called names or insulted: 18.8 percent.
Subject of rumors: 16.5 percent.
Threatened with harm: 5.7 percent.
Excluded from activities on purpose: 4.7 percent.
Property destroyed on purpose: 3.3 percent.
Pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on: 9 percent.
Tried to make do things they did not want to do: 3.6 percent.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Once picked on for his weight and poor speech, Lindhurst High School student Tharon Trujillo decided to take a stand against bullying after his friend committed suicide in 2010.
Trujillo now travels across the country in a My Life, My Power anti-bullying campaign to help youths who struggle with being bullied. To help other students, Trujillo tells the story of Catalina Angeles, who hung herself in a closet after she was constantly harassed online, Trujillo said.
"If bullies know that bullying kills, it can make a bigger impact," he said.
Awareness about bullying has been increasing in Yuba-Sutter, but so have the methods of harassment, said Dulia Aguilar, a prevention specialist at Sutter-Yuba Mental Health. The rise of social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, has made cyberbullying a major issue.
Now that organizations are paying closer attention, they are seeing more of the consequences that stem from bullying, Aguilar said. They have even begun to see it in grades as early as preschool.
"The behavior patterns start at a young age," she said. "We try to give parents and students the social skills needed to not be the target of a bully and not be bullies themselves."
According to Aguilar, studies have shown that more than 50 percent of bullying incidents are stopped if someone intervenes.
The Live Oak Community Rescue Center is one of several organizations in the area focused on tackling the problem. Meetings are held with community members and law enforcement officers to figure out how to get students more involved.
Additionally, the center is holding an assembly at Luther School on Feb. 15 that hopes to teach students to be more empathetic to their classmates.
"We want kids to stand up and say we don't' want this on our campus," said Sandee Hannaford, director of the Live Oak Community Center. "And we want to help bullies as well."
Following the national trend, bullying has become prevalent in Yuba-Sutter middle schools, Hannaford said. However, harassment can happen at any grade, and the impacts can stay with students the rest of their lives.
"It's going to be with you, but it doesn't have to define you," she said.
Trujillo, who works with several national organizations, said he plans on continuing his campaign against bullying to make campuses more comfortable for students.
"I tell kids to make someone's day," he said. "Change someone's life. Everyone should be happy."
Schools take bullying seriously
In the Yuba City Unified School District, bullying isn't the same as it once was, said Bruce Morton, director of student welfare and attendance at the district. And it's becoming more difficult to stop.
Before social networking sites, a typical bullying situation would consist of a big kid picking on a smaller kid, he said. But things have changed. Physical punches are being replaced by keyboard punches, as bullies turn to wireless devices to deal out social harassment.
Females, in particular, are using social bullying more than they used to — a form of harassment that is especially difficult to correct, Morton said. After all, how do you punish a student for excluding another classmate in social interactions?
"There's very little you can do if one girl says to another, 'We don't want to talk to you. We don't want to interact with you anymore,'" Morton said. "It breaks the girl's heart."
Aside from a spike in fights in December, schools within the district haven't seen any evidence that would suggest a rise in bullying, he said. In fact, the average number of fights continues to remain low.
The Marysville Joint Unified School District has had similar experiences, said Jolie Carreon, the district's coordinator of student discipline and attendance.
Schools are continuing to remain active to prevent bullying and encourage students to talk to counselors, she said.
"We do take it seriously," Carreon said. "And we will not turn a blind eye."
CONTACT Griffin Rogers at email@example.com or 749-4783. Find him on Facebook at /ADgriffinrogers or on Twitter at @ADgriffinrogers.