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Cyberbullying Forum: Know the signs, solutions, & criminal aspects

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Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Christopher Ballenger (left) and Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler (right) kicked off the joint Cyberbullying Forum held on Thursday, November 3.

 

To provide support to the community, Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office jointly sponsored the Cyberbullying Forum on Thursday, November 3, in the Warren County High School auditorium.

“Bullying prevention is something we need to focus on every day,” said WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger. “We know that this is an issue that continues to grow within our society as children are connected in a variety of ways that we as children didn’t experience.”

Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler pointed out that cyberbullying is affecting everyone across the country, not just in Warren County, Va. “Bullying generally is a problem,” he said. “We can be the ones to stop it, but we have to join together and actually make a difference together as a community.”


During the main presentation, Warren County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Kristin Hajduk (above) provided extensive information on bullying, which she said is defined as any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated.

According to Hajduk, bullying also may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth, including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.

Bullying may be physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual in nature. For example, physical bullying may include punching, poking, strangling, beating, biting, and excessive tickling. Verbal bullying includes acts such as hurtful name-calling, teasing, and gossip. Emotional bullying includes behaviors such as rejection, extortion, humiliation, blackmail, rating/ranking of personal characteristics, manipulation of friendships, isolation, ostracizing another person, and peer pressure.

There is also cyberbullying, Hajduk said, which is sometimes referred to as electronic bullying. “Kids these days have a device on them at all times, which leads to cyberbullying,” she said.

Cyberbullying may involve:

  • Sending mean, vulgar, or threatening messages or images.
  • Posting sensitive, private information about another person.
  • Pretending to be someone else to make a person look bad — Hajduk said kids often will make fake accounts just to post comments and/or images that could make another person look bad.
  • Intentionally excluding someone from an online group.

Cyberbullying may be done on social media, email, instant messaging, text, or digital imaging messages sent on cell phones, web pages, social media applications, and online gaming, said Hajduk.

Cyberbullying is criminal

“I know many people don’t consider cyberbullying to be criminal, but there is a criminal element there,” Hajduk said.

In fact, according to the Code of Virginia, the definition of bullying is “any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate the victim; involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the aggressor(s) and victim; and is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma.” Bullying includes cyberbullying; it does not include ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict, the code says.

Specifically, Section 18.2152.7:1 of the Code of Virginia says that cyberbullying does fall under Harassment by Computer and is subject to a penalty If any person, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, or harass any person, shall use a computer or computer network to communicate the obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious, or indecent language, or make any suggestion or proposal of an obscene nature, or threaten any illegal or immoral act, shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

“And while [the code] does say computer, computer means cell phones, gaming devices, or anything that is transmitted over the internet,” Hajduk said.

That fact should be top of mind, she said, because pre-internet, people would just exchange words either face-to-face or over the telephone. But today, those words never go away once transmitted over the internet. There are screenshots, for instance, or material, messages, and images that are repeatedly shared between users, making them almost permanent. “This causes bigger issues inside of the schools,” said Hajduk.

Criminal acts may develop

There are also criminal acts associated with cyberbullying, including threats, harassment, and extortion.

For example, a threatening communication is one in which a person threatens to kill or do bodily injury to another person or any member of his or her family and places the person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury.

Hajduk said there are also several types of harassment — which is repeatedly annoying or attacking a person or group in such a way as to cause anxiety or fear for safety — that are against Virginia law.

And extortion is defined as obtaining property or money from another person by using or threatening to use violence or other criminal means to cause harm to a person, their reputation, or their property.

“All of these are very real in our school system,” said Hajduk.

At the same time, she said that cyberbullying often may lead to physical altercations, including assault and battery, robbery, and hazing.

Modes & types

Hajduk also said that it’s important to distinguish between the specific modes and types of bullying. The modes include direct bullying and indirect bullying, while the types of bullying are physical, verbal, and relational.

Direct bullying, for instance, includes aggressive behaviors that occur in the presence of a targeted person, such as face-to-face interactions like pushing or hitting or even harmful written or verbal communication.

Meanwhile, an example of indirect bullying would be aggressive behaviors that aren’t directly communicated to youth, such as spreading rumors or telling your friends to exclude someone.

Regarding relational types of bullying — which are designed to harm a person’s reputation and relationships — examples are social isolation, spreading rumors, and posting embarrassing images.

“We are seeing a lot of this right now, particularly on the Snapchat app,” said Hajduk.

She said that once an embarrassing image of a student is sent among the student body, for instance, by the end of the day, it has already been viewed by the majority of that student’s peers. “And this is very hurtful to them,” she said. “Most students don’t want to return to school once something like this happens.”

Impacts of bullying

In fact, Hajduk said that bullying has a wide-reaching negative impact on youth, including depression and anxiety that could lead to self-harm, suicidal thoughts, or attempts at suicide. Bullied youth also may experience psychosomatic problems, such as headaches, stomach pain, problems sleeping, or poor appetite. Their grades also might suffer, and their rates of absenteeism, truancy, or dropping out likely increase, she said.

Interestingly, according to Hajduk, bystanders are also affected, who said they may be afraid to associate with a victim for fear of retribution from the bully and becoming a victim themselves. Or a bystander might just fear his or her own status or reputation could be impacted, so they avoid a bullying victim, or maybe they don’t want to be known as a “snitch.”

On the flip side, a student who witnesses another student being bullied may experience feelings of guilt or helplessness for not standing up for their classmate.

Bullies are also affected. Hajduk said that studies have found that bullying in childhood may be an early sign of the development of violent tendencies, delinquency, and criminality.

“One study found that boys identified as bullies in middle school were four times as likely as their non-bullying classmates to have three or more criminal convictions by the age of 24,” she said, noting that this information was released in 2019, so the statistics could be higher today.

Karen Plosch (above), director of counseling at Warren County Middle School, explained that bullies also are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults; get into fights, vandalize property; and drop out of school.

Bullies also are more likely to engage in early sexual activity, and when they grow up into adults, they’re more likely to have criminal convictions and traffic citations and be more abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children, said Plosch.

“It is hurtful to everyone. It destroys a positive place for kids to come together and learn. It erodes kids’ physical and emotional sense of safety and worthiness,” she said.

According to the speakers, one in 10 boys and one in five girls are cyberbullied in the U.S., who showed a video presented by Bark on the Top 5 Most Dangerous Apps for Kids: A Parent’s Guide to the Digital World. The most dangerous online apps are:

  1. Snapchat
  2. Discord
  3. Omegle
  4. Kik
  5. Hoop

Bark, an award-winning parental control app founded in 2015, offers content monitoring, screen time management, and web filtering tools that provide comprehensive online protection for families. According to its website, the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) scans for “worrisome content” in children’s texts, emails, photos, videos, and content in 30+ apps and social media platforms.

After a seven-day free trial, Bark Premium may be purchased for $14 per month, or Bark Jr. is available for $5 per month. Both plans are one price regardless of the size of a family or the number of devices they have.

How to empower kids

In WCPS, Plosch said students are told that they matter and that no one ever deserves to be bullied. It is never their fault. If someone is being bullied, they have a right to be safe.

They are also told to be an upstander, not a bystander. A bystander just sits by and watches bullying happen to someone, while an upstander can make a huge impact by intervening on behalf of someone being bullied, she explained.

Tips to be an upstander include: Walk away if someone is trying to humiliate someone else; don’t respond to someone who is trying to provoke you, even online — don’t respond and block them; tell a responsible adult that bullying is happening; don’t spread rumors and don’t accept or share texts or posts that are mean to other people.

Students at WCPS are also encouraged to be kind — it increases confidence and happiness and provides a person with better quality friends. Being kind also improves the lives of others and gives people a better opinion of you. Being kind also opens more doors for your future and improves the community, said Plosch.

WCPS staff also work to help students develop resilience, work to create a “kindness culture,” and encourage respectful behavior.

What parents can do

Students and parents should report bullying concerns to school administrators and/or counselors so they may respond swiftly and appropriately — and “trust that we are addressing it and communicate with us if you feel it is not being addressed,” Plosch said.

Additionally, don’t post your child’s bullying situation online; Plosch said this only escalates the drama and creates more potential bullying.

She added that parents and guardians can also model positive behaviors toward others, including online.

“We want to help parents understand what they can do to help their child if they’re experiencing cyberbullying or harassment,” said Ballenger, who noted that the partnership between the school division and the Sheriff’s Office is for their benefit, too, and that there have been times when WCPS has had to rely on the Sheriff’s Office to help them work through a situation.

“Monitor your kids. Check for signs of bullying. Monitor their social media sites. Communicate with your school so that we can help intervene because a lot of the situations that happen outside of school in the evening, on social media, come to school the next day,” Ballenger said.

Click here to watch the forum in this exclusive Royal Examiner video.

 

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Congressman Ben Cline holds Town Hall meeting in Warren County

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Residents of Warren County were invited to a town hall event with Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) on December 5, 2022. This town hall event was an opportunity for residents of Warren County to engage in a dialogue with Rep. Cline about important issues in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District.

Watch the Town Hall meeting on this exclusive Royal Examiner video.

 

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Frederick County Sheriff’s Office deputies help rescue horse after fall into pool

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On December 2, 2022, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Deputy’s responded to a residence on Green Springs Rd. in Frederick County. This was regarding an 1800-pound draft horse that fell into a swimming pool. Once on the scene Deputies determined that the horse had knocked over the top rail of the fence around the pool, jumped the fence and walked out onto the nylon pool cover causing the horse to fall into the water. However, its head and part of the body remained above water.

The Draft Horse was in the 9-foot end of the pool. Deputies Cram, ACO Deputy Tasker and Sgt. Hawse started cutting the pool cover away from the horse. Once it was clear of the cover and haltered, the horse was pulled to the shallow end of the pool where it was able to stand and catch its breath. Deputies were able to guide the horse up the stairs to the pool deck and into the yard.

The Veterinarian who handles the horse was called and advised to dry the horse as good as possible, feed it hay and keep it moving. That information was passed on to the owner’s children that arrived on scene. At the time of this email the horse was doing fine.

“You just never know what type of calls we respond to every day. This is one for the books. We are happy that it was witnessed, and we could respond to assist. Deputies were ready to go in the water if needed to make sure the horse stayed above water,” Sheriff Lenny Millholland observed of the incident.


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Local doctors take time out to again treat third world country residents of Honduras

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For the past 14 years, local Dr. Thomas (call me “Tommy”) Ball has ducked out of Front Royal Family Practice to spend up to two weeks leading a medical team to serve the people of Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Dr. Ball – okay, we’ll call him Tommy from here on – has always considered serving the under-served a core mission of his medical practice.  For the past 20 years Valley Health has recognized and supported that mission as part of his faculty position at the Shenandoah Valley Family Practice Residency.  “Valley Health recognizes that young doctors want to understand Global Health and want to contribute internationally.  They allow me to devote time as a teacher to global health issues and they support our work overseas,” he told us.

Dr. Ball examining a patient in Honduras clinic. – Courtesy Photos Dr. Ball/SAGE

Medical faculty from around Virginia have formed a nonprofit organization, SAGE (Students And Global Engagement), focused on introducing trainees to a small community in rural Honduras.  As Tommy describes it, “We attempt to foster better health among the Hondurans and to expose Americans to the needs people face in a third world setting.  It is a two-way street in which both parties benefit.”


SAGE helped build a small mountainside clinic in the village of Pinares, Honduras.  They send medical teams for one to two-week stretches three times a year at four-month intervals.  The area they serve is approximately the size of Warren County, with similar mountainous terrain.  Average take-home pay for the mostly agricultural workers around Pinares is about $3-dollars a day (yes, a day, emphasized Ball).

Medication, some donated by Valley Health, helps patients cope with a variety of diseases including familiar problems such as diabetes, hypertension and arthritis, as well as problems uncommon here such as parasites caused by contaminated water.  SAGE tries to go beyond just medication and address the underlying social factors that foster illness.  In recent years they have donated monthly food packages to families with young children and filters to improve the safety of drinking water.

This fall the team included Dr. Paulius Mui and Dr. Sean Sutphen from the residency training program and seasoned local physician Dr. Shyama Rosenfeld, as well as support personnel in pharmacy, emergency transport, and anthropology.

Dr. Shyama Rosenfeld, left, leads a team visiting a handicapped young woman in her mountainside home near Pinares, Honduras.

Tommy has developed close ties and friendships in the community SAGE serves.  He notes that he is older than most volunteers, but hopes he still has a few more years left of visiting and doing his best to improve health conditions in Pinares. “We have the personnel who want to help, but we are always struggling financially,” Tommy said, hoping that local service clubs and other non-profits might see their way to help support SAGE.

If you, the reader, are interested and require additional information, email Tommy at Front Royal Family Practice (taball@valleyhealthlink.com) or visit the SAGE website (sage-community.com). And yes, you may call him Tommy!

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WATCH: Christmas Parade 2022

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If you missed the Christmas Parade or want to see it again, sit back and enjoy!

This year the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade was hosted by Mike McCool, Publisher of the Royal Examiner, and Niki Foster, Executive Director of the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce. Special thanks to Mark Williams, videographer, and the parade sponsor Lindsay Chevrolet.

 

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If it’s early December it must be time for Kiwanis’s Pancake Day Breakfast thru Lunch community fundraiser

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The Kiwanis Club of Front Royal held its annual Pancake Day fundraising event at Warren County High School’s cafeteria from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, December 3rd. This event raises significant funds, which are put back directly into our community and our schools to help the children of Warren County. Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to “changing the world One Child and One Community at a time.”

All proceeds from the event go right back into the community. Kiwanis thanks all those sponsors, members, and others who help make this event an annual community success.

We approach the WCHS front entrance. – But where are the pancakes and sides? A-Ha, a clue …

The Kiwanis Club Pancake Day food line has transitioned from breakfast to brunch and now lunch as the 1 p.m. closing time approached.


And on the way in and out of the WCHS cafeteria there were other options than food to contribute to the cause. – Royal Examiner Photos Roger Bianchini

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VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for December 5 – 9, 2022

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The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.

*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.

INTERSTATE 66
No lane closures were reported.

INTERSTATE 81
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight left lane closures for equipment unloading and barrier installation, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through the night of December 15.


PRIMARY ROADS
No lane closures were reported.

SECONDARY ROADS
*NEW* Route 840 (Water Plant Road) – Flagger traffic control near I-81 for the I-81 overpass bridge inspection, Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.

Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.

The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information about Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Thank You to our Local Business Participants:

@AHIER

Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Avery-Hess Realty, Marilyn King

Beaver Tree Services

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Card My Yard

CBM Mortgage, Michelle Napier

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

Mountain View Music

National Media Services

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

St. Luke Community Clinic

Strites Doughnuts

Studio Verde

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Vetbuilder.com

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warren County DSS Job Development

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

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