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Support anti-bullying programs

Bullying isn't just harmful to victims, it foreshadows crime and violence by its perpetrators, according to a new report.

U.S. and European research shows victims of bullying are five times more likely to be depressed and far more likely to be suicidal than are other people. Nearly 60 percent of boys researchers deemed bullies in grades six through nine had been convicted of at least one crime by the age of 24. Forty percent of them had three or more convictions by 24, according to the study by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national advocacy group.

While some adults may consider bullying a harmless rite of passage, a growing body of research tells us the consequences for victims, the bullies themselves and society are significant. The research also suggests that bullying prevention programs are relatively inexpensive, compared to the costs of educating a child with emotional problems resulting from bullying or the costs of prosecuting and jailing bullies who have turned into adult criminals.

Utah school boards and the Utah Legislature have passed policies and laws to address school hazing, which was often an initiation rite for various sports teams and school clubs. Most school districts take a hard line with students who act out on their fellow students in this manner.

But bullying can be a more difficult issue to address. Victims may not come forward out of fear the bullies will escalate the violence. Schools may lack a sufficient number of adults to supervise students when bullying is more likely to occur, which is between classes, during lunch and before and after school.

Some schools utilize parent volunteers to monitor school hallways and common areas. Some bullies exact their punishments in restrooms, locker rooms and less-traveled parts of a school where there is a lower likelihood of being caught.

Obviously, this conduct cannot be tolerated, and schools need to take steps to stop bullies before they exact physical or emotional harm to other students or embark on a track of law-breaking themselves.

According to The Fight Crime: Invest in Kids report, it costs about $4,000 to train someone to administer an anti-bullying program in a large school district. Better yet, federal money for safe and drug-free schools is often available to cover expenses such as personnel costs.

Considering that nearly one in six children in grades 6-10 are victims of bullies each year, bullying prevention programs would go a long way to spare victims the physical and emotional damage resulting from the repeated abuse of one person or group and help reduce criminal activity of young people who act out in this manner.