Bullying in Utah: What does it look like?

Local News

UTAH (ABC4) – As a school-aged student, it’s an unwanted form of aggression and for parents, it can ultimately become a horrific nightmare. Bullying, according to the Centers for Disease Control is a widespread issue across the country and in Utah, it happens more often than we think or know about

Denia-Marie Ollerton is the Clinical Director for The Safe UT app at Huntsman Mental Health Institute, she tells ABC4 that while parents and students express concerns of bullying, there’s a lot more happening on a social aspect behind the scenes. Ollerton says “we’re not maybe getting all of the bullying reported.”

In the case of 10-year-old Izzy Tichenor, a young girl who died by suicide from reportedly being bullied at Foxboro elementary. As ABC4 previously reported, Izzy’s mom says she knew her child had been bullied but didn’t realize the extent of the harm being done.

One mom who spoke to ABC4 says her son was also a victim of bullying and eventually she became a target as well. Cat Palmer, a mom, photographer, and member of the LGBTQ+ community, tells ABC4 “I was being bullied by other parents because I was different than the other parents at that school and they didn’t want me there.”

While many cases of reported bullying happen among school-aged children, Demia-Marie Ollerton says Adults can also be victims of bullying for issues dealing with race, religion, sexual preference among other reasons.

“It’s just an unfortunate part of society, we ostracize people that we don’t understand,” says Ollerton.

Like the case of Izzy Tichenor, Cat Palmer believes had she not acted on changing her son’s school, the attacks from other kids may have ended much worse.

“My child came to me two years later and said mom had we stayed here, I don’t know if I’d be alive” says Palmer. 

So what does bullying look like in Utah?

According to the Huntsman Mental Health Institute during the first 3 months of school in 2019, there were 387 bullying tips received through the SAFE UT app. In 2020 there were 144 tips received, and so far in 2021, the app has received 209 bullying tips. Making bullying the 2nd most reported incident among school-aged kids and cyberbullying in the top 10.

However, bullying is preventable. Doctors at Huntsman Mental Health Institute at the University of Utah health encourage parents to promote a safe space for kids to talk about what’s happening without fear of shame or being dismissed. 

The second is simply listening to your child without making sudden actions or opinions. They also say to be aware of how your actions and behaviors may be affecting your child. And lastly, by teaching kindness and understanding.

Officials say there are resources available for teens being bullied such as the Safe UT app as well as tips from the CDC.

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