National Bullying Prevention Month – A Year in Review
Hopefully by now you are already aware that October is National Bullying Prevention Month. With the goal remaining bullying prevention, let’s look back at a few news stories that gained national attention over the last twelve months since our last Blog during the month of awareness.
News Story One: January 25, 2021, A Houston father of five is dead after a confrontation that allegedly stemmed from his 15-year-old daughter being cyberbullied by another teen. Brandon Curtis, 35, was shot more than once on Friday evening. The shooter claimed he shot Curtis in self-defense, as reported by ABC-13. The Harris County Sheriff, Ed Gonzalez, tweeted that Curtis took his daughter to fight a group of teenagers. During the fight, Gonzalez alleges, several other people got involved, including Curtis. Harris tells the station that her daughter had been bullied on social media by a teenage boy for nine months. She shared some profanity-laced messages with the station. Harris claimed she and her husband spoke with the boy’s father a few months ago, but that the bullying had never subsided. She said her husband, daughter and son went back to address the issue for a second time when the fight broke out.
News Story Two: March 14, 2021, Pennsylvania Woman Accused of Using Deepfake Technology to Harass Cheerleaders. Three teenagers in a Bucks County cheerleading program were subjected to a campaign of harassment using altered videos and spoof phone numbers, police officials said.
News Story Three: An upstate New York teen died by suicide after he was allegedly blackmailed with “personal” images on social media, according to his family. Riley Basford, 15, took his own life on March 30 in Potsdam, New York after being “bombarded” with online threats, the Watertown Daily Times reported. Shortly before the teen’s death, an unidentified social media user threatened to leak sensitive snapshots of Basford if he didn’t pay $3,500. New York State Police confirmed they’re investigating a number of other incidents in which teen victims were targeted online in similar catfishing schemes.
News Story Four: July 1, 2021, Cyberbullying of Wilson 6th grader abruptly stops after possible hacker says mom ‘told me to apologize.’ A message appeared, it said “I won’t hack you anymore. My mom caught me hacking you.” A second message appeared saying, “She told me to apologize. I’m sorry for hacking you.”
What we know from stories such as the four referenced here, is that bullying is still a prevalent part of modern society. The consequences of bullying activities left largely unchecked show a potential to be fatal. Bullying can affect everyone—victims, aggressors, families, and those who witness bullying. Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health, substance use, suicide, and homicide. It is important to talk to people in your community, including kids, to determine whether bullying is a concern and to educate.
Kids Who are Bullied
According to https://www.stopbullying.gov/bullying/effects those ids who are bullied can experience negative physical, social, emotional, academic, and mental health issues. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:
- Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
- Health complaints
- Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
There appears to be a correlation between victims and violence. A very small number of bullied children may retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.
Kids Who Bully Others
Conversely, kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood. Kids who bully are more likely to:
- Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults
- Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school
- Engage in early sexual activity
- Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults
- Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults
Bullying Statistics 
How Common Is Bullying
- About 20% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying nationwide.
- Students ages 12–18 who reported being bullied said they thought those who bullied them:
- Had the ability to influence other students’ perception of them (56%).
- Had more social influence (50%).
- Were physically stronger or larger (40%).
- Had more money (31%).
Bullying in Schools
- Nationwide, 19% of students in grades 9–12 report being bullied on school property in the 12 months prior to the survey.
- The following percentages of students ages 12-18 had experienced bullying in various places at school:
- Hallway or stairwell (43.4%)
- Classroom (42.1%)
- Cafeteria (26.8%)
- Outside on school grounds (21.9%)
- Online or text (15.3%)
- Bathroom or locker room (12.1%)
- Somewhere else in the school building (2.1%)
- Approximately 46% of students ages 12-18 who were bullied during the school year notified an adult at school about the bullying.
- Among students ages 12-18 who reported being bullied at school during the school year, 15 % were bullied online or by text.
- An estimated 14.9% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months prior to the survey.
Types of Bullying
- Students ages 12-18 experienced various types of bullying, including:
- Being the subject of rumors or lies (13.4%)
- Being made fun of, called names, or insulted (13.0%)
- Pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on (5.3%)
- Leaving out/exclusion (5.2%)
- Threatened with harm (3.9%)
- Others tried to make them do things they did not want to do (1.9%)
- Property was destroyed on purpose (1.4%)
By increasing the awareness of some of the effects of bullying on victims, aggressors, and the related statistics, hopefully by October of 2022 we will collectively see a decline in the number and frequency of bullying occurrences. The goal remains consistent, bullying prevention.
The FBI and Counterterrorism
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the lead agency in the United States for combating international and domestic terrorism.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 forever changed the FBI. The agency transformed itself into an intelligence-driven, threat-based, national security and law enforcement agency, with counterterrorism, both domestic and international, as our highest priority. To achieve this transformation, the Bureau focused on three main areas:
- We improved the way we analyze and share intelligence to drive our investigations and to stay ahead of changing threats.
- We greatly enhanced the FBI’s technology, giving us tools to help understand the intelligence data we collect and how to make the best use of it. In 2002, we created a Cyber Division at FBI Headquarters to address emerging cyber threats.
- We enhanced our partnerships with our counterparts in law enforcement, the intelligence community, and the public and private sectors.
In the last few years, threats from domestic terrorist extremists have emerged as a larger threat than international terrorism. As a matter of fact, in recent years, domestic violent extremists have caused more deaths in the United States than international terrorists.
Between 2015 and 2019 the most lethal threat posed by domestic violent extremists in the U.S. stemmed from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists. However, in 2020, three of the four fatal domestic terrorism homeland attacks were perpetrated by anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists.
For the FBI to investigate a case as domestic terrorism the following criteria must be met: the existence of a potential federal criminal violation, the unlawful use or threat of force or violence, and the existence of ideological motivation. The FBI can never open an investigation based solely on protected First Amendment activity. We cannot and do not investigate ideology.
Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism (RMVE) and Anti-Government or Anti-Authority Violent Extremism (AGAAVE) is viewed by the FBI as the top domestic violent extremism threats in 2021. The Bureau elevated RMVE to be one of our top threat priorities—on the same level as international terrorist groups such as ISIS.
The primary threat to the homeland today is the one posed by lone actors or small cells who often look to attack soft, familiar targets with easily acquired weapons. The threat has created a new set of challenges for law enforcement because these actors are difficult to identify, investigate, and disrupt before they take violent action. There are far fewer “dots” to connect when individuals act alone and do not discuss plans with others.
That’s why it is critical for anyone who has information about someone planning to do harm to our community to report it to law enforcement immediately. We’ve all become familiar with the phrase “If you see something, say something.” We hope you do.
How #Default2Safety is Helping Keep Students Safe on Technology
#Default2Safety may seem like a normal hashtag to many, but it’s what lead to a revelation of a large tech company to take a deeper look into how technology can be reformed to keep students safe.
With technology being a main staple not only in our homes, but now in our student’s education, there have been many questions and concerns. One of our partners, NCOSE, took the challenge head on to fight for change and safety for all students. Google devices, Chromebooks are used by majority of school districts in America (40+ million students), including the Greater Houston Area. As of September 1st, they will be implementing several of the suggestions made by NCOSE for making Chromebooks and google education safer for students. The original article can be read here. Below is a breakdown of the new implemented safety settings.
The safety settings will automatically be defaulted on all products for K-12 students (under the age of 18) that can only be changed by those who hold administrative privileges. Administrators will also be given the ability to tailor settings for services such as maps, photos, and YouTube based on the age group at that campus.
- SafeSearch: ON
- SafeSearch when on, is used to filter out explicit content (images, videos, websites) that may pop up when using Google Search results.
- Enable Guest Browsing: OFF
- Guest Browsing when on, is a mode that allows all browsing activity to go undetected as well as be deleted when guest mode is exited.
- Incognito Mode: OFF
- Incognito mode is a private browser that keeps other people who use the device from seeing the history. Chrome will not save the history, information entered, or filed that were downloaded while using the private browser.
- SafeSites: ON
- SafeSites also called Safe Browsing, will alert you about malware, risky extensions, phishing or sites on Google’s list of potentially unsafe sites. It will also warn you if a downloaded file may be dangerous, giving the option for Google to scan it.
So, what do these changes mean and how great will the impact be?
First and foremost, this will help to considerably cut down on purposeful exposure to explicit content as well as predatory language through school-issued Chromebooks while being used at home and school. This is also beneficial to educators and administrators who are unable to consistently monitor the devices safety settings, as well as ease parent’s minds that they are being protected while at school. Though these safety settings aren’t 100% going to catch everything, consider checking browser history frequently and talk to students about safe sites that are able to access and what to do in the event of explicit content and sites they may come across.
This wouldn’t have been possible without NCOSE, Protect Young Eyes and many other organizations that played a part in this long 10-year battle through public campaigns and legislation. Thanks to organizations who continuously put in the work to make student and public safety a priority!
Detecting Arson and Fraud Associated with Fire
The concept of reducing or eliminating a person’s responsibility with the possibility to gain personally or financially from a fire loss is how arson and fraud have become so closely associated. Society has a general acceptance that fire is a natural phenomenon and is not anyone’s fault. Detecting arson and fraud associated with fire can be difficult because the destruction of physical evidence can be extensive.
Fraud is defined as the wrongful deception for personal gain. Fraud occurs when a person knows they are being dishonest, what they are doing is wrong, and they do it for personal or financial gain anyway. Arson has a common definition as the willful or malicious burning of something, to include fraudulent and or criminal intent. The crimes of arson and fraud have been linked together for centuries. Thousands of years ago Hammurabi Law codified that debtors had less responsibility to repay creditors if a loss occurred to the debtor as the result of an Act of God. Although we have modernized language to use the term natural in place of the phrase an Act of God, fire has long been interpreted as an Act of God, caused by something natural, without direct involvement of a person.
These concepts together are why criminals engage in committing fraud through arson or fraud after a fire. Some people believe the detection of any crime will be difficult because there is destruction of physical evidence by the fire and people will generally accept no one is to blame.
Some examples of fraud by arson or fraud after a fire are as follows. A person intentionally starts a fire to burn property such as a vehicle, home, or building because they can no longer afford to make the necessary payments to a creditor. This scenario is often associated with a fraudulent insurance claim because creditors almost always require amortized property to be insured against loss. The goal of the person committing fraud in this instance is to simply be relived of the financial responsibility of the property they agreed to pay for. In a similar scenario a person starts a fire to burn property such as a vehicle, home, or building because they believe they can gain financially from collecting a payout from an insurance claim on the insured property. Some instances of fraud occur because an insured person fraudulently claims that property was damaged or destroyed in a fire. This instance can occur in scenarios where the fire that caused the loss was not intentional or it can be in addition to the crime of intentionally causing the fire.
Some people mistakenly believe that fraud crimes don’t hurt anyone or that it is only financially impacting a big company that won’t be hurt paying a fraudulent insurance claim. The FBI estimates that the cost of non-health insurance fraud cost more than $40 billion per year, averaging $400 to $700 in direct cost to a typical U.S. family per year. The financial impact of fraud does not cover the injuries, damage, or cost incurred to emergency responders, neighbors, bystanders, and taxpayers as a result of the impact of the incident itself.
FBI Basic Overview on Insurance Fraud https://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/insurance-fraud#:~:text=Costs%20of%20Fraud,the%20form%20of%20increased%20premiums.
Texas Association of Special Investigative Units https://tasiu.clubexpress.com/
Summer Camp Questions Every Parent Should Ask
Did you know that The American Camp Association, the only national accreditation body for camps, requires camps to meet just 18 percent of its 255 standards and practices? Thanks to Meow Meow Foundation, you will know what questions to ask summer camps before sending your kids. The tragic loss of 6-year-old Roxie at a summer camp, that was afterwards deemed inadequate, lead her parents to create the Meow Meow foundation to bring awareness to summer camp and water safety.
Our CEO, Rania Mankarious sat down on the Balanced Voice Podcast with Doug Forbes and Elena Matyas to discuss their story, their foundation and how Roxie’s death can lead to saving other kids.
Watch their discussion and learn more about Doug Forbes and Elena Matyas here:
Summer break is finally here and kids are ready to explore, relax and have fun. Often times, summer camps are on the to-do list in majority of households. Whether those camps are day camps, overnight camps, dance camps, horse riding camps or sports camps; all camps should be held to a high safety standard. As a parent, where do you start? Research is important before choosing the camp you want to send your child to. While it can be comforting to send them to a camp recommended by a family friend, be sure to check the camp out on your own. Though the ACA refuses to tell parents that standards and practices that have allowed camps to be deemed “accredited”, there are questions you can ask that will give you insight on how the camp operates. Below you will find a list of questions that will be helpful in finding the right camp for you and your child.
- Does the camp operate with a valid license from the county department of public health?
- Was the camp inspected at an announced visit before summer season and again during an unannounced visit operating season?
- Are these inspection result public?
- Have you executed a thorough internet search – to see if a camp is responsible for an injuries or deaths (drowning, falling, impalement), sexual or other abuses?
- Does the camp comply with mandated reporter requirements?
Counselors and Staff Questions:
- Does the camp employ counselors and staff with any criminal background?
- Do they conduct annual background checks?
- Are camp staff CPR certified before being hired?
- Be aware if they are certified on-site
- What other types of training do they receive?
- Is the camp health director a physician or registered / vocational nurse?
- Is there an on-site health supervisor that is 25+ years-old?
- Does the camp offer high-risk activities? (Riflery, aquatics, horseback riding, climbing etc. )?
- If so, does the camp possess training, certifications and equipment for high-risk activities?
- Does the camp have a pool or swimming area?
- If so, does the pool / swimming area meet all current legal standards?
- Does the camp certify lifeguards at legitimate organizations?
- Beware of on-site training after hiring.
- Are lifeguards re-tested every year?
- Does a camp keep a log of all swimmers, their abilities and restrictions?
- Does the camp have and require proper gear for high-risk activities (zip-line, archery, horseback riding)?
- Does the camp have an emergency management plan for each activity?