Created: 04/02/2014 11:14 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 News) -- When we think of bullying victims, too often we picture the loner, the outsider, or the new kid in class.
But new research shines a different light on the problem, saying those most at risk may not be who you’d think.
A study published this week in American Sociological Review shows “popular” kids are actually more likely to be victims of bullying because of competition for social status.
Researchers said as kids devote more of their energy to a perceived social hierarchy, gossip, harassment, and the risk of actual violence increases.
"That usually happens more in junior high and middle school than it does in high school,” said Vangie Castro, a member of a state bullying taskforce. “It becomes a little bit more sophisticated in high school, but then it's still kind of a ranking system, the idea of 'more popular.'"
On Wednesday night, bullying experts and concerned parents met in Rochester to talk about ways to make schools safer for all children.
"It doesn't matter the reason, it doesn't matter the characteristic, none of us want children to be bullied,” said Michele Lentz, state coordinator for the Child Protection League. “I don't think the reason matters, I think the behavior matters.”
Experts said both school officials and students themselves need to do a better job of identifying bullying and making it stop.
"Bullying isn't just the pushing and shoving, the traditional bullying that people think about,” Castro said. “Now with technology, it's become much harder to see the types of bullying that's happening with kids."
A controversial bullying bill that would establish statewide policy for schools will be up for debate in the state senate on Thursday.
A vote on the bill is possible, and if that happens, count on ABC 6 to have the results.