January 13

Maine middle-schoolers reporting rise in bullying

The state, educators have stepped up efforts to combat bullying behavior, but a recent survey shows that so far, middle school bullies seem to be winning.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Blake Marden, 14, knows bullies.

click image to enlarge

ANTI-BULLYING: Messalonskee Middle School students pay attention to an antibullying presentation by X Games medalist Kevin Robinson in Oakland on Monday. From left are Percy Carey, Blake Marden, Megan McQuillan, Sadie Colby and Addison Littlefield.

Staff photo by David Leaming

click image to enlarge

UP BEAT MESSAGE: Ian Bradley rides his bike up a ramp in one of the eye-catching demonstrations that was part of the Bullying Prevention and Living a Positive Lifestyle presentation at Messalonskee Middle School in Oakland on Monday.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Additional Photos Below

More than half of Maine middle school students report being bullied

Between 2011 and 2013, the percentage of middle school students who reported being on the receiving end of bullying behavior increased from 48.1 percent to 51.6 percent. In many counties, as in the state as a whole, the number of self-reported victims exceeded 50 percent for the first time.

Androscoggin County: 41.1 percent in 2011 to 52.4 percent in 2013

Aroostook County: 58.4 percent in 2011 to 59.2 percent in 2013

Cumberland County: 45.9 percent in 2011 to 48.9 percent in 2013

Kennebec County: 49.3 percent in 2011 to 51.3 percent in 2013

Lincoln County: 46.3 percent in 2011 to 57.1 percent in 2013

Oxford County: 50 percent in 2011 to 55.8 percent in 2013

Penobscot County: 51.1 percent in 2011 to 52.2 percent in 2013

Piscataquis County: 50.5 percent in 2011 to 61.8 percent in 2013

Sagahadoc County: 50.4 percent in 2011 to 47.3 percent in 2013

Somerset County: 43.2 percent in 2011 to 52.5 percent in 2013

Waldo County: 53.3 percent in 2011 to 55.5 percent in 2013

York County: 45.3 percent in 2011 to 49.3 percent in 2013


There were not enough respondents in Franklin, Hancock, Knox and Washington counties to provide a statistically sound percentage for those areas.


Source: 2013 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey

Help for victims available

If you or someone you know is being bullied or if you just want to make a positive change in your school’s environment, there are a variety of resources available for help.

The state Department of Education has a list of resources, not only for youth, but for parents and educators, listed on its website at www.maine.gov/doe/bullying.

Back when he was in elementary school, they used to exclude him from their playground games.

At some point, fearing rejection, he stopped asking to join in, he said Monday after attending an antibullying event featuring X Games medalist Kevin Robinson at Messalonskee Middle School.

Marden told himself he didn’t want to talk to the bullies, but the truth was, he did.

“They were the boys, you know, the cool guys,” he said.

Today, Blake has grown into a young man whose sense of self worth isn’t tied up in the opinions of those who mistreat an offer of friendship.

But a recent state survey shows that, for the first time, the majority of Maine’s middle schoolers report being the subject of taunts, jeers and even physical attacks.

Bullying is at the center of a battle in Maine.

On one side of the battle, state legislators, the Department of Health and Human Resources, educators, parents and the Department of Education have all stepped up antibullying efforts under a new state law targeting a set of behaviors that can have serious consequences for victims.

On the other side of the battle are the schoolyard bullies, who seem determined to keep making fun of their peers.

So far, the bullies are winning.

The Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, based on 63,000 student responses, found that in 2013, 51.6 percent of middle school students reported they’d been bullied, up from 48.1 percent in 2011, an increase the authors found to be statistically significant.

The survey, given every odd year since 2009, asks students in grades five through 12 about a variety of health factors, including alcohol and drug use, seatbelt use, food choices, thoughts of suicide and bullying.

The numbers for central Maine counties show similar increases.

In Kennebec County, the percentage of middle school students reporting bullying increased from 49.3 percent in 2011 to 51.3 percent in 2013.

In Waldo County, the percentage increased from 53.3 percent in 2011 to 55.5 percent in 2013.

In Somerset County, the percentage increased from 43.2 percent to 52.5 percent. This sounds like a lot, but because county numbers are based on a much smaller sample size than the state as a whole, there is less confidence in the numbers, and so the report’s authors don’t consider it to be a statistically significant increase.

In Franklin County, as in Washington, Hancock, and Knox counties, the survey’s response rate was too low for numbers to be reported at the county level.

The most-bullied peer group was girls aged 14 or older; in Kennebec County, 63 percent reported they’d been bullied.

Among fifth and sixth graders, the survey found the number of students who reported being bullied on school property increased from 45.4 percent in 2011 to 47.2 percent in 2013. The number of fifth and sixth graders who reported being bullied away from school property increased from 36.5 percent to 37.1 percent. In both cases, the survey’s authors found that the change was not statistically significant.

Among high schoolers, the number of students who reported having been bullied in the past 12 months increased from 24 percent in 2011 to 25.8 percent in 2013, a change the survey’s authors again found was not statistically significant.

Public response

Interest in anti-bullying strategies seems to be increasing.

Parents have called for more to be done about the problem of bullying, fueled in part by high-profile cases in which teen suicides have been associated with bullying. The family of 13-year-old Kitty McGuire, a Troy teen who took her own life in March, believes bullying was a factor in her death, a belief disputed by police investigators.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

BULLY MESSAGE: Presenter Kevin Robinson rode a bike while delivering his antibullying message to Messalonskee Middle School students in Oakland on Monday. Robinson is an X Games athlete.

Staff photo by David Leaming


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