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Upstate schools work to reduce bullying

Beyond reading, writing and arithmetic, schools across Upstate New York are dealing more and more with school violence.

SUNY Upstate Medical University forensic psychiatrist James Knoll says if a person asks anyone about school violence, they'll answer Columbine or Newtown, Conn.

"Most of the lay public's attention gets focused on the rare, but sensational acts of school violence like school shootings," Knoll said. "But I think it's the more common everyday violence, physical and mental abuse, and bullying... where our efforts are best spent."

There is more interest than ever about school violence, according to experts at a recent conference in Syracuse on the subject.

"It's been stimulated in part by the mass shooting tragedies," Knoll said. "But to this day, I get a significant amount of consultations from schools and colleges about their concerns about potentially violent students. So it's become a more pressing issue."

That means more schools are building programs that focus on bullying. Knoll says there are already good programs in place, with some schools establishing threat assessment teams.

"Many schools already have programs teaching what is acceptable and what's not, and where the line should be drawn," Knoll said.  "There are also efforts to make it more permissible for students in confidence to come to teachers about their concern."

He says more must be done to teach teachers the signs and symptoms of bullying early on, and then have available resources for referrals.

Knoll also says the essence of bullying hasn't changed over the years, but it's become more pernicious with the advent of the social media. Bullying can lead to social isolation and all sorts of adverse psychological effects, and it's often hard to connect the two.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.