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Wenstrup Highlights School Safety Innovation

Washington, July 30, 2018 | Ann Tumolo (202-225-3164)
 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, Congressman Brad Wenstrup (OH-02) delivered a speech on the House floor highlighting some of the innovative work that organizations in Ohio’s Second District are doing to explore how to make our schools safer. Screen Education and EMI Research Solutions, both from Cincinnati, partnered with Stark Statistical Consulting to conduct surveys of student attitudes towards violence, social media, and technology. Bully Bully of Cincinnati developed an anonymous app for reporting intimidation or harassment in schools, with resources for both students and school administrators.

 Click here or the image below to watch Congressman Wenstrup’s remarks.

Remarks as delivered:

 Well thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about school safety. I present, as a doctor, health care professional, as a father, and as a representative that is open to new ideas from people that are really attempting to do something to try to make our schools safer and better for our children.

 As a doctor, I see violence as a public health crisis which is multi-faceted, with different contributing factors to consider, and with preventive strategies to implement.

 That’s why I want to share with you what a couple organizations in my district are doing in an attempt to tackle some of the lesser-explored potential factors contributing to violence within our schools, among our students, and growing in our society.

 It begins with an organization called Screen Education. Screen Education is a Cincinnati-based organization that seeks to understand – scientifically – how technology and social media impacts kids. Screen Education and EMI Research Solutions, which is an online market research supplier also from Cincinnati, partnered with Stark Statistical Consulting of Albuquerque, New Mexico, to conduct a survey of students. While their full analysis contains much insight, I’d like to share three statistics that I found particularly shocking: 

·         68 percent of students said they witness someone being bullied online at least several times per year.

·         31 percent of students said that they had seen online bullying result in physical violence.

·         And when asked if they felt that using social media will contribute to conditions that can result in school shootings, 73 percent of the students said yes.

Now to be clear, I’m not saying that social media is the sole cause of shootings or suicides, but these are statistics that should shock everyone. Recent findings say revenge is a strong motivation for school shootings, and that among students, homicide perpetrators were more than twice as likely as their victims to have been bullied by peers. These are more than just statistics – they are the reported experiences of our nation’s children on a daily basis both in and outside of school.

This is an example of a problem that clearly could and should be addressed and that our society surely has the means to deal with. Some organizations are stepping up to do just that. Bully Bully is a Cincinnati-based firm that was created out of a disconnect that the founder noticed between widespread bullying in our schools and the often reactive, largely ineffective ways of addressing that harassment.

Bully Bully is developing an anonymous reporting app that not only allows students to provide information regarding antagonistic situations, but also assists school administrators in analyzing and addressing these incidents and supporting victims of harassment.

Bully Bully’s stated goal is to never allow another incident of intimidation or harassment lead to a school fatality or suicide. What they are saying is: “Here is a problem. It might be a factor in violence, and I think we have the means to stop it, so here is a solution. Let’s try it.”

In my experience, Mr. Speaker, there is rarely a simple solution to a public health care crisis. You need to try multiple solutions across multiple fronts. Physical or verbal intimidation may be a facet of this public health crisis that we haven’t paid enough attention to, but ought to. I’m glad we have Americans, like those in my Ohio district, who are willing to try and solve part of a large problem. Evidence has suggested that students who get harassed by their peers tend to grow up more socially anxious, with less self-esteem and requiring more mental health services, and hundreds of thousands of students skip school each day out of fear or anxiety.

It may be a more pervasive problem than we think, actually. Recent research by Screen Education on 12-to-16 year olds at Camp Livingston in Bennington, Indiana, found that students were largely happier by being deprived of their smartphones – they were more engaged and connected to one another as people when removed from the cyber-world of drama, gossip, and aggression.

Instead of being forced to react to students’ violence when tragically necessary, perhaps we should focus on equipping the adults who spend all day with these students with the means to support and guide them.

Let’s keep looking for ways to make schools safer for our children. And, maybe, just maybe, maybe we make the school experience better and safer for our children as a result. Mr. Speaker, I yield back.