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Social Isolation not seen as Bullying by Many, According to Polls

Update Date: Sep 18, 2012 09:10 AM EDT

Bullying is a serious, on-going problem among (pre)adolescents and school officials have been enlisted as the principle handlers of such issues. Physical bullying is not the only symptom of social rejection; a more serious and perhaps even more painful indicator is social isolation. A new poll, taken by the University of Michigan, shows that adults rarely take the latter form of bullying under consideration, which is even more disconcerting. .

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health recently asked a nationwide sample of adults what behaviors should be considered bullying and what behaviors should spur school officials to intervene.

Most of those polled recognized, physical abuse, humiliation and embarrassment, and rumor spreading as serious bullying antics where school officials should step in and protect the victim, however only little more than half said isolating a student socially should prompt school intervention.

"The key finding from this poll is that adults don't see behaviors across the bullying spectrum as equivalent," says Matthew M. Davis M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

School sanctions against bullying were implemented only as recent as 2000 and even now the definitions of bullying in most schools are not clearly defined; what constitutes as bullying differs from state to state and, in some cases, from campus to campus.

While most school officials and adults recognized threatening a student's safety and verbal harassment or embarrassment as conducive to disciplinary action, isolation was for the most part underestimated.

"This is concerning because isolating a student socially is considered to be a form of bullying, and a dangerous one," says Davis, associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School. He adds, "Isolating a student socially may be linked to episodes of school violence and also teen suicide."

With suicide rates among pre-teens and adolescents at an all-time high in 15 years, bullying has been noted as its primary cause and as parents' primary concern regarding childrens' health. The latest national data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2011, reported by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicate that 20 percent of high school students report that they have been the victims of bullying.

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