Teachers in Manatee County are getting more help to identify the tormenters in their classrooms and helping victims report abuse.
In January, a Manatee county fifth-grade student was terrified to go to school. He said he was being tormented by bullies. ABC Action News isn't identifying him or his grandmother, his primary caretaker, in order to protect him.
"They said that they were going to get together and then um beat me up when I least expected it," the boy said.
"Kids were threatening to kill him, telling him he should kill himself," his grandmother said.
She was was hoping Manatee County Schools would make changes to better help teachers.
"It will be helpful if the teachers are more educated on what to look for," she said.
Now the district has changed their bullying policy to give educators a whole list of programs they can use including:
- Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP)
- Positive Behavior Support (PBS)
- Second Step/ Steps to Respect
- Aggressors, Victims, and Bystanders (AVB)
- Character Counts
- Safe School Ambassadors
- Life Skills Training
- Not in My School! (District program)
They take teachers step-by-step in recognizing the signs, helping victims report and to determine what's teasing and what's true bullying.
"It's tricky," said Clarissa Crystal-Belle, clinical director at Star Point Counseling in Tampa. "They've got a lot of students to keep an eye on all at the same time."
Crystal-Belle, who has recently written a book about troubled children and childhood bullying, says teachers can miss that some behavior problems are rooted in bullying.
"Sometimes, they'll only see the child's reaction," she said. "So that's the child that gets in trouble."
She feels having more of these resources can make an immediate impact in the classroom.
"Rather than being reactive, they're proactive and able to solve the problem," Crystal-Belle said.
Manatee county schools helped the boy switch schools. He is still troubled by his experience with bullying, according to his grandmother.
"It still affects his self esteem, it still affects his ability to trust anybody," she said.
But she also said he is doing much better in his new school.
Crystal-Belle said there are signs your child may be a victim of bullying, including not sleeping or eating normally and lashing out.