October is "National Bullying Prevention Month." Despite that, there has been a rash of school bullying incidents reported in Pennsylvania, Maine and California in recent weeks, some of them deadly.
To fight the worsening problem, California's Governor Gavin Newsom signed three new laws aimed at preventing bullying and suicides. The new laws come after one Southern California school witnessed two acts of violence, one of them, and concerns a 10-year-old student at another school might have died by suicide over being bullied.
"Now you have students that are bullied at school, and then it carries over at home because the bully continues online," sais Karyna Gonzalez, a counselor for Southern California school violence program "Rise Up Against Bullying."
That online threat is addressed with "The Safe Place to Learn Act." It requires that children in kindergarten through sixth grade have easy access to suicide prevention materials, including on the internet.
Meanwhile, an amendment to the state's education code is also aimed at younger students, requiring an updated policy on suicide prevention appropriate to the needs of those at "high risk." That includes youngsters who are disabled, homeless or identify as gay, lesbian or transgender.
Another law creates a special suicide prevention fund for taxpayer contributions. It would help fund crisis centers that are active members of the national suicide prevention hotline.
"We need parents and schools and communities and our legislators to work together to combat this problem," Gonzalez said. "It's a responsibility of all of us to ensure that our students go to school to learn and not to survive the day."
Nationwide, about 20% of students age 12 to 18 say they've been bullied. Experts say because of the internet, students are often unable to escape their bullies and are therefore constantly being re-traumatized.