Arkansas ranks as one of the worst states for bullying in 2019, and this isn’t the first time.
“The instances of cyberbullying have escalated exponentially, we can’t even get a handle on it,” says Michael Flowers, Youth Bridge Director of Clinical Services.
Cyberbullying and bullying on school grounds are problems increasing around the county, but in the natural state, it almost surpasses them all.
Arkansas has the second highest number of bullying in the country. Flowers says Arkansas’ alarming statistics may be the cause.
“We want kids to embrace relationships and interactions and not be fearful of them,” says Flowers.
A study published by Child Trends in 2018 says kids in Arkansas are more likely to go through an adverse childhood experience than any other state. Experiences include poverty, toxic stress, fractured families, and incarcerated parents.
According to the United Health Foundation, around 20 percent of Americans experienced an adverse childhood experience in 2018, Arkansans came out at almost 30 percent.
“That becomes a transgenerational problem. Because those kids have kids,” says Flowers.
A solution may come by creating strong relationships at home, and in school.
“The stronger the relationships are, the more accepting students are of each other and if they feel that they have trusted adults that they can go to, it minimizes all of those situations,” says Shannon Tisher, Principal, Don Tyson School of Innovation.
Schools like Don Tyson School Of Innovation are taking notice and building a safe environment for students.
“When you hear a student say to another student, “hey it’s not okay to treat someone like that, we don’t do that here,” that’s when you know you have a great culture,” says Tisher.
Flowers says places like Youth Bridge need to stand up and push initiatives forward that will help bring an end to the bully crisis
“We may not have all the answers but we want to be able to partner with other entities to help us provide the answers that help kids. I want us to be a provider that seeks to serve all. We want to be a resource not just for kids but for parents,” says Flowers.
In February 2019, Youth Bridge announced its partnership with Burrell Behavioral Health out of Springfield, Missouri. The merger will help it push initiatives that will help tackle bullying and provide a healthier environment for not only kids but all Arkansans.