Social media could make it harder to track bullies in schools

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash.-- Fewer kids are being suspended for bullying at schools across the Yakima Valley. However, more are being expelled for it. Despite these mixed numbers, administrators insist they're making progress. They're not seeing as many incidents overall.

"Trust, Honor, Respect." It's the motto of Selah Intermediate School; a place focused on stopping bullying.

"Bullying isn't going to be tolerated," Assistant Principal Colton Monti said. "That absolutely won't be tolerated at school to bully other students."

The Selah School District holds assemblies, offers leadership classes and emphasizes more interaction with students to stop the harassment.

It seems to be working. Numbers from the state show the Selah School District had six suspensions for bullying last school year. That's down from 15 the year before.

"What's your reaction to that?" KIMA asked Selah High junior Elijah Tierney.
"That's pretty cool because bullying sucks," Tierney said.

Elijah Tierney is a junior at Selah High School. He remembers being bullied.

"People making fun of clothes and stuff like that," he said.

Elijah says he still sees it happen to other kids.

"Nothing really physical, but mostly verbal and emotional and tears," Tierney said.

Bullying reports are dropping in other districts as well. The Yakima School District saw fewer suspensions, but more expulsions. Sunnyside's bullying suspensions dropped slightly, but expulsions more than doubled.

Administrators say stricter policies are behind the rise in expulsions. They say technology has become a favorite tool for bullies.

"I feel like every six months something new comes out, you know, Snapchat or Instagram, and kids think that it's safe," Selah Intermediate School counselor Mindy Forbes said. "But, you know, kids can screenshot anything."

"Once you send something, there's no getting it back," Monti said. "It's sent, and the impact and the consequences that that could have is drastic."

"Cyberbullying is pretty prevalent, and just because they're behind a screen means they can do it all they want, well, they think," Tierney said.

The latest struggle to keep kids focused on trust, honor and respect.

There's a lot more to see about bullying across Yakima County. Click here for those numbers.