For two weeks in a row, we have had front-page stories about students being seriously injured by other students on school grounds in our community.

Last week, we brought the story of a student being choked to the point of passing out and needing medical attention. This was reported at Oceanside High School West in Thomaston.

We felt it was an important story. While some young people may not realize it, any time a person's airway is constricted it is extremely dangerous. There is no guarantee when the pressure is taken off the airway that the other person will recover.

This week, we were contacted after a middle school 13-year-old in Waldoboro had to be taken to the hospital after a fight on a school bus.

Attitudes toward bullying and school violence are changing, but in some corners of our community there are those who shrug these incidents off, saying, "they're just kids" or "boys will be boys," or "I was bullied and it didn't hurt me any."

That attitude has to go away. The first step toward making our children safe in school is for society to understand bullying is not acceptable. It is not acceptable in the workplace, in the home and certainly not in the school.

The National Crime Prevention Council has this to say about bullying:

"Bullying has become a tidal wave of epic proportions. Although bullying was once considered a rite of passage, parents, educators, and community leaders now see bullying as a devastating form of abuse that can have long-term effects on youthful victims, robbing them of self-esteem, isolating them from their peers, causing them to drop out of school, and even prompting health problems and suicide."

We believe area educators and parents know this. They have seen this in schools for too long.

However, dealing with this problem means we as a larger community need to provide support for efforts to deal with bullying.

Bullying, according to the council, is:

  • Fighting, threatening, name-calling, teasing, or excluding someone repeatedly and over time
  • An imbalance of power, such as size or popularity
  • Physical, social, and emotional harm
  • Hurting another person to get something

Kids who are bullied are more likely to do poorly in school, have low self-esteem, suffer depression and turn to violent behavior.

The National Crime Prevention Council has the following suggestions for parents:

  • Teach kids to solve problems without using violence and praise them when they do.
  • Give children positive feedback when they behave well to help them build self-esteem. Help give them the self-confidence to stand up for what they believe in.
  • Ask your children about their day and listen to them talk about school, social events, their classmates, and any problems they have.
  • Take bullying seriously. Many kids are embarrassed to say they have been bullied. You may only have one chance to step in and help.
  • If you see any bullying, stop it right away, even if your child is the one doing the bullying.
  • Encourage your child to help others who need it.
  • Do not bully your children or bully others in front of them. Many times kids who are bullied at home react by bullying other kids. If your children see you hit, ridicule, or gossip about someone else, they are also more likely to do so themselves.
  • Support bully prevention programs in your child's school. If your school does not have one, consider starting one with other parents, teachers, and concerned adults.

Police urge parents to monitor their children and teens when they use Facebook and other Internet sites. In some cases name-calling and insults hurled at a teen online will make them feel helpless, alone and backed into a corner. The grownups have to show them they are loved and there is a way out of this cycle.

Parents also need to stand up for their children when these acts of violence occur. The law is on your side when your child has been victimized. Do not allow yourself to be intimidated into silence. You are your child's best advocate. Demand justice and action from schools and police.

One mother said to us this week: "I don't know what it says about society when kids are taking things into their own hands to administer justice. What does a 15-year-old know about justice?"

It says we are not sending our young people the right message and they are probably witnessing bullying among the adults in their lives.

Take a stand today. Lead by example and choose to be a good role model in your home and your community.