Researcher Takes a Look at Urban Bullying

Bullying obviously happens everywhere, but according to an assistant principal in the Rochester City School District researchers are primarily focusing on bullying in the suburbs.

However, he said the problem is persistent in urban settings and may look a little different.

Kaonnya Lewis was bullied for nearly two years while she attended Jefferson High School in the City of Rochester, but she didn't realize it at the time.

"I didn't think of it as bullying," Lewis said. "Once I listened to like other people's point of view. Then I got the picture."

Kaonnya said she was both a bully and the bullied in real life and online.

It started first on Myspace then followed her to Facebook.

She didn't know it was bullying, but the signs were there.

"It was just like made me a bitter person," she said. "I'd come to school and like just blow off the school work. My grades started slipping."

Kaonnya's story sounds like it could have happened in a suburban school.

However Doctor Paul Miller, an assistant principal at Jefferson, learned urban bullying is more likely to escalate into a fight or physical altercation.

"The main difference is that if a black female is disrespected through cyber-bullying," he said. "(If) they allow it to just happen, then they lose their respect."

Kaonnya got into two fights. One outside the school. The other outside her home.

"I had like a few scratches on my face and I think I had like a small cut over my eye," she said.

Doctor Miller interviewed Kaonnya and 9 other African American girls as part of his doctoral research at St. John Fisher College.

He learned loss of respect and social standing could have severe negative effects.

"So when they're low on the totem pole, (they're then) opened up to experience bullying," he said. "It's a constant fight. Where their safety is in jeopardy - traveling to and from home and even in school. the community, the neighborhood.

That really effects them to where they have to respond to it. They have to respond in a way to where they feel they have adequately earn their respect back."

As an assistant principal at Jefferson Miller sees many cases of cyber-bullying. Just like in the suburbs he said adult intervention early on is key.

With Miller's help Kaonnya blocked her cyber-bullies.

She knew if the conflicts continued she could get suspended or go to jail.

"That's like that's my future at stake here," she said. "They wasn't about to graduate."
She graduated on time and is now studying at Monroe Community College.

Kaonnya hopes Miller's work will open people's eyes to the problem in urban settings.

"Attention needs to be brought towards it," she said. "A lot of people don't report that they're being bullied and there's a lot of people out there who can't take the pain. The physical and emotional pain of it, and they will want to commit suicide or really hurt themselves. I would never really want to see somebody really hurt."

Miller presented his research at st. John fisher college in December. He is in the process of getting his research published.

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