The financial website Wallet Hub released a study on Monday about the states with the biggest problems with bullying, and Montana was rated overall as the 7th worst state in the U.S., and worst when it comes to state laws against cyberbullying.

KGVO spoke with analyst Jill Gonzalez about the study and Montana’s troubling ranking, especially the lack of anti-bullying laws on the books.

“Unfortunately, this is a ranking where you don't want to be closer to the top,” said Gonzalez. “Montana finds itself as seventh worst in terms of its bullying problems right now, specifically when it comes to things like anti-bullying laws, and the lack thereof in Montana. So that's what could use the most help. The state needs to see more anti-bullying laws and policies, especially regarding things like cyberbullying or on-property bullying.”

Gonzalez tied poverty to a rise in bullying.

“We're also seeing things like poverty come into the equation,” she said. “Usually the more poverty-stricken someone is, the more they're likely to run into bullying. They're also likely to experience poverty more, so it's kind of a double-edged sword. The same can be said with academic failure, so that's why we want to hopefully curb a lot of these things. We looked at 20 different metrics, everything from the bullying incident rate to truancy rates for schools, to the share of students bullied online to see how this all shakes out.”

Gonzalez then broached the subject of cyberbullying.

“Cyber-bullying is also probably the easiest to keep track of,” she said. “A lot of times there is evidence of that that is tangible. So parents can check in on screenshots (on their child’s phone or computer) and things like that and bring school officials in on that hopefully without leaving your children behind. So as long as you gain trust with your children, should they feel comfortable telling you things like that, cyberbullying is actually made bullying, easier to do something about.”

Gonzalez said simply contacting school officials about cyberbullying won’t bring the lasting change that only legislation can produce.

Montana ranked worse in the nation in Wallet Hub’s survey on having effective anti-bullying or cyberbullying legislation.

“The superintendent is not in charge of making the laws,” she said. “So that would be a separate conversation. Because there are no real anti-bullying laws in Montana, that might be, you know, a school to school, kind of from the ground up operation that hopefully we see might get the attention of  authorities down the line.”

KGVO has reached out to MCPS Superintendent Dr. Rob Watson for the anti-bullying policies within the local school system. Click here to read the official policy. Click here for the policy of the Office of Public Instruction.

 

 

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