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Anti-bullying effort must begin at home
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Bullying takes many forms - it can be anything from name-calling to physical abuse. It can be the kid trying to humiliate a classmate by spreading salacious rumors, or getting other kids to ostracize the selected victim, or even a physical assault. It could be because of the victim's size, race, disability, sexual orientation, or something as petty as the way the victim dresses.

It's not just kids' stuff, behavior to be brushed off with a "kids will be kids" shrug. Ask any adult who was bullied as a child and they can tell you of the lifelong scares bullying can leave.

And for some, the stakes have become much higher: Our nation seems to be experiencing a near-epidemic of suicide among children and teens, many reportedly spurred by relentless bullying.

Certainly bullying among young people is not a new phenomena. There's been schoolyard bullies at least as long as there have been children interacting with each other. We suspect the seeming increase in bullying has much to do with the changes in digital communication in our society. In today's world, bullies can broadcast their taunts widely and instantly with a click of the mouse. An increased awareness of the problem is also, rightfully, bringing more attention to the problem of bullying.

It's imperative schools crack down on bullying behavior. That's just what a group of about 30 residents asked the Monroe school district to do when they attended the school board meeting Monday, Sept. 10 - develop a tougher policy to help prevent bullying.

Monroe superintendent Cory Hirsbrunner acknowledged the district can - and will - do more to help prevent bullying. Joe Monroe, director of student services for the district, explained bullying policies at schools across the district are inconsistent. But, he said, a team of district officials has been working on a revamped district-wide bullying policy and plans to ramp up its bullying education efforts. To that end, the district plans to target curriculum, awareness and prevention to educate students about bullying.

We encourage the Monroe school district to move swiftly to adopt a stringent, consistent policy to address bullying. Every child deserves to feel safe at school; it could be a matter of life or death.

But an increased effort on the school district's part is only one part of the solution. The real work should begin at home.

It's up to parents - not our schools - to teach children right from wrong. Parents of all children must take a zero-tolerance approach to bullying. This means rebuking that "kids will be kids" mentality, and supporting schools' anti-bullying efforts. It means closely monitoring your children and what they are saying and doing at school, at home and in the community, and knowing exactly what they are saying and doing on social media, the internet and cell phones.

Most importantly, it means modeling appropriate behavior. We continue to be shocked how quickly normally reasonable adults can become downright vicious in the realm of sports, politics, even online comments regarding local issues.

How can we expect our children to stand up against bullying when we - the grownups - act like bullies ourselves?

By supporting and building a united front with the school district, parents can help their children stand up to bullying, and teach our young people how to treat each other with respect, rather than aggression.