Hannibal High School starts initiative to combat cyber bullying

Hannibal High School students Jean Anderson, left, and Jessica Stinson frost cupcakes Tuesday, March 7, 2017, in a home economics room at the school. The two are part of the school's "Pirate Positive" group, which helps to identify and eliminate bullying behaviors. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson
Phil Carlson 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 12, 2017 12:01 am

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Survey responses from 337 Hannibal High School students stood out to family and consumer science teacher Linda Stinson and the nearly 15 students in her chapter of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.

Seventy-one percent of respondents said cyberbullying is a problem in the school, and 32 percent said they have been the victim of cyberbullying. Even more concerning was that 15 percent said they felt like hurting themselves after people posted derogatory comments about them on social media.

"I've seen mean comments on Facebook and been like, ‘That's not cool,'" said Jessica Stinson, a sophomore in the chapter and Linda's daughter.

Even though she's never been bullied online, she's concerned about those who are. So is junior Jean Anderson, who avoids social media completely. Together, the pair, as well as other classmates in the chapter, brainstormed what they could do at school to raise awareness of the dangers of cyberbullying.

Pirate Positive is the anti-cyberbullying response they created and aligned it with the national FCCLA Stop the Violence program. It was unveiled to the student body Feb. 16 when motivational speaker Jeff Yalden addressed the Hannibal community about mental health and suicide prevention.

"I think hearing what Jeff had to say about suicide and bullying really impacted people," Linda Stinson said.

That day, handmade anti-bullying posters were hung in the high school hallways, and an empty banner was put up with space to attach photos, printed from the internet, of people tweeting or posting pictures with positive sentiments that ended with the hashtag #PiratePositive.

"We wanted to have a hashtag to spread positivity," Jessica Stinson said. "Weirdly, it's not used elsewhere on Instagram or Twitter."

In the few weeks since Pirate Positive was unveiled, about 10 photos with the hashtag have been added to the once-empty banner, and community residents have started to use the hashtag, too.

The group of teens meets up to three times a week to plan activities to combat the bullying and get other school groups involved with their goal. They recently partnered with physical education classes to teach a self-defense curriculum in case students find themselves in violent situations.

"It's good to help others be aware of their surroundings and be a little bit safer," said Jessica Stinson, who is involved in tae kwon do and demonstrated some moves to her peers.

"The more we incorporate to prevent cyberbullying, the better chance we have to stop it," her mother added.

Soon, the chapter will deliver Pirate Positive anti-cyberbullying posters to elementary and middle schools. A 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study reports 24 percent of middle school students say they have been cyberbullied.

"Even though I'm not on social media, I know it's a problem, and I'm happy we can help students in a positive way," Anderson said. "It's hard to combat when it's on a cellphone, so we just ask that people think before they send."

The chapter doesn't have a set time to end its Pirate Positive campaign.

"We realize we're not going to stop cyberbullying. We just hope we're getting the message across that people stop and think before hurting someone," Linda Stinson said.


Members of the Hannibal High School FCCLA chapter wanted to gauge the extent of cyberbullying among students; 337 students across all grade levels took a yes-or-no survey.

4 percent have suggested to someone to hurt themselves.

35 percent say they have had someone tell them to hurt themselves.

22 percent say they have wanted to or actually did skip school because of cyberbullying.

75 percent would tell a friend if they were being cyberbullied.

17 percent say they have feared for their safety due to a social media situation.

34 percent say they have felt at some point that a social media situation was going to lead to violence.