HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The government is warning schools about rules against bullying as a new study suggests the problem is worse than parents may have realized.
Nearly half of all U.S. high schoolers say they've been bullied or teased in the last year and even more students say they've been the bully.
That's from one of the largest surveys ever done and now the federal government is getting involved.
The State Board of Education held a committee meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss this issue. It also involved community members because they feel it's more than just a school-wide issue.
With President Obama and even local legislators pushing anti-bullying messages, it's also a topic the Hawaii Board of Education is tackling head on.
"We have a duty to prepare the students college or a career and where ever they work in the State of Hawaii, they need to comply with the civil rights laws, you cannot work at a company and discriminate a co-worker or customer, so you have to make sure it's a safe environment for everyone," Board of Education member Coco Iwamoto said.
On Tuesday afternoon, the board met, along with community members to come up with ways to curb bullying.
Right now, the State Department of Education has two ways to combat this issue. One is workplace rules, which calls for zero tolerance for improper behavior or discrimination and the other is Chapter 19, which covers discipline in schools.
"Under Chapter 19, bullying, harassment and cyber bullying are classified as "B" offenses which are very serious offenses," Acting deputy superintendent Ron Nozoe said.
Nozoe said there are a few anti-bullying programs that schools use, including school-wide guidance programs.
"They talk about scenario-based, if you're in the situation, what do these kids do in these situations, others have contracted with private agencies," he said.
But Board of Education member Coco Iwamoto said it all comes down to each individual doing their part.
"It's an opportunity when a teacher or school level personnel witnesses an incident of bullying or harassment, it's opportunity to intervene and educate around that issue," she said.
The bullying survey out today also found that more than half the students had hit someone in anger and almost 30 percent said it was okay to threaten a person.
"The bullying part is really just the symptom, it's a terrible symptom, but it's really just a symptom of a larger issue of how are we treating others as a society," Nozoe said.