Is anti-bullying campaign in Osceola elementary schools working? Here’s what we know

Statistics shows Osceola County elementary, middle schoolers saw increase in bullying incidents

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – At the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez took his anti-bullying message to all elementary schools in the area for the first time ever.

The plan was to prevent young children from turning into hardened bullies, and even stop school violence.

Lopez admitted it was experiment.

Never before had anyone in uniform in elementary school explained what bullying was and why it was bad until this past school year.

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But the sheriff said anecdotal reports point to early success.

“Usually we get a lot of critical incident type reports but I haven’t seen a lot of those cross my desk,” Lopez said. “But I’d like to see further to make sure that this is really working.”

Lopez said parents he’s heard from are grateful, telling him they are not just glad but relieved that school resource officers are finally targeting elementary schoolers to stop bullying sooner.

So many school shooters claim they were bullied as children.

Lopez said he believes anti-bullying talk in the earliest years of students’ lives may ultimately prevent school violence, but he understands it will take years to see the real results as the elementary schoolers learn the lessons grow up.

Official numbers from the Osceola County School District do not show an improvement for now.

Last year, before the sheriff brought anti-bullying messages to elementary schools, most incidents of bullying, harassment and threats happened in Osceola County middle schools, including just 217 last year. This was followed by 130 bullying incidents in elementary schools and 84 incidents in high schools last year.

This past school year, however, it got worse among younger students.

Middle schools in the county again saw the most incidents involving bullying, harassment and threats. The 286 incidents show a 33% increase year over year.

Elementary schools saw 191 incidents of bullying, which is a 47% increase, and high schools saw 64 incidents, a 31% drop from last year.

Lopez said he’s realized in order to get a better idea of how well his experiment is working, he needs better statistics so he’ll work with his school resource officers and the Osceola County School Board to better quantify bullying and better characterize incidents, to see if bullying is at the heart of them.

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About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.