KANSAS CITY, Mo. – There’s a new effort to cut down on bullying in schools.
The program is called Bully Avengers, and it was founded three months ago by Joseph Bonner, a former educator.
“Most kids who speak up about being bullied, they are telling the truth,” Bonner said.
A Bully Avenger's job, Bonner said, is to investigate bullying claims and provide emotional and physical support for kids and their parents. The program also provides educators with intervention tactics and resources on how to prevent bullying in schools.
“The purpose of our program is to make sure there is no child that feels like they cannot report things,” he said.
An estimated one in four students in the U.S. have been bullied at school, and there’s often a disconnect between young people’s experience and what adults see, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Unfortunately, bullying has continued to become an increasing problem nationwide, so it’s really important to make sure that kids have a voice,” Bonner said.
Kevin Whaley is one of 20 volunteers working for the program. The 35-year-old was bullied from grade school through high school.
“I remember the trouble it caused me, how much it hurt my feelings,” he said. “It was mostly name-calling. Every now and again, kids would physically pick on me and things of that nature.”
Whaley described himself as a small kid growing up, which he believes made him an easy target. The Kansas City man said he never really reached out to the adults in his life because he thought they might overreact. He also feared his peers would retaliate.
“I don’t know if it will ever be 100% preventable because kids will be kids,” Whaley said.
The bullying stopped when he started to be his true self.
“Once I stopped being who I thought people wanted to be, things got a lot better,” he said.
Whaley hopes that by drawing on his own childhood experiences with bullying, he can help a child get through the hurt and abuse they might be facing.
“There are people out there who care. You’re not alone,” he said. “There are people who have lived through it, just like you’re living through it now and things do get better.”
You can learn more about Bully Avengers – and how to get help or involved – by clicking here.