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Martirano, in wake of Barbour incident: Bullying must be reported

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Martirano, in wake of Barbour incident: Bullying must be reported
By Shauna Johnson, WV MetroNews

PHILIPPI, W.Va. — The teen boy who held 27 fellow students and one teacher hostage at Philip Barbour High School Tuesday may have been looking for the student or students who’d bullied him, according to the boy’s pastor.

Dr. Michael Martirano, state superintendent of schools, could not confirm that report on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline” but, in general, he said bullying is not and will not be tolerated in West Virginia’s schools.

“I don’t want our children suffering in silence. With social media, young people are in positions now where they are harassed online, 24/7, they need to be able to feel like, if they are harassed online or something is occurring at school, that they are provided with the ability to be able to report that to an adult,” he said.

“That’s the first thing we want them to do.”

Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, agreed. “The bullying, back in our day, was the push or shove from the bigger guys, but now it’s the cyberbullying,” he said. “It’s just unacceptable.”

Signs of a child being bullied, according to stopbullying.gov, may come in the form of changes in behavior or eating habits; unexplainable injuries; lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry; frequent headaches, stomach aches or faked illnesses; difficulty sleeping or decreased self esteem.

Signs that kids may be bullying others could possibly include frequent fights; friendships with those who bully others; increased aggression; frequent detention and unexplainable extra money or new belongings.

Pastor Howard Swick with Haven of Hope Worship in Philippi said the only indications he had that the boy, age 14, was being bullied came the day before the standoff at Philip Barbour High School.

The teen, who later surrendered without hurting himself or anyone else, was being held Wednesday at the J.M. “Chick” Buckbee Juvenile Center in Augusta on 30 charges, including one count of making terrorist threats.

He is not being identified publicly because of his age.

West Virginia has a Safe Schools Helpline for reports of violence, weapons, threats, thefts or property damage, drug or alcohol abuse and sexual harassment. That number is 1-866-SAFEWV, 1-866-723-3982.

“We want to continue to encourage all of our citizens in West Virginia to reach out to young people — if they’re suffering in silence, if they are suffering in general with being bullied, intervene and, if it’s reported, let us know immediately,” Martirano said.

“We know the best way to respond to this is to intervene and break the cycle of bullying so it doesn’t continue.”