Johnstown nonprofit offers free consultation services to counter bullying |

Johnstown nonprofit offers free consultation services to counter bullying

Deb Erdley

A Johnstown-based nonprofit is reaching out to provide an extra resource for parents, students and teachers looking to counter school-based bullying.

The Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, boasting a staff of health, mental health and education professionals, took more than 1,000 calls from public and private schools in 58 Pennsylvania counties on its toll-free PA Bullying Prevention Consultation Line from 2017 into 2019. With the start of Bullying Prevention Month, Center officials are urging families and schools to learn about their services and other nonprofit resources that can aid in preventing and resolving bullying.

Studies suggest school yard and cyber bullying remain problems in many schools. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which classifies bullying as a form of youth violence, one in five high school students reported being bullied on school property last year, while one in seven said they were subjected to cyber bullying.

Officials said 75% of the calls the center logged over two years indicated a need for follow-up support to families and schools dealing with complex bullying issues.

The center underwrites the Bullying Prevention Consultation Line in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Highmark Foundation.

“While many schools have bullying prevention resources for parents and staff, the number of actionable calls is showing us that there is still a great need for more education and resolution resources for both parents and schools,” said center spokeswoman Shiryl Barto.

She said, once a call is deemed in need of a response, the center works with students, families and schools to develop safety plans with specific strategies designed to ensure student safety.

An analysis of the center’s callers found more than 50% of the incidents reported involved a group of students bullying a single student; more than half involved physical bullying and more than three-quarters involved some type of verbal bullying. About 15% of the incidents involved some type of online bullying.

Calls for help peaked at the start of school, within a month leading up to winter holiday breaks and in the final weeks of school, center officials said.

Officials said calls for help can be left on the Consultation Line seven days a week, 24 hours a day and are answered during business hours. The toll free number is 866-716-0424.

Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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