According to a US Department of Education study, 39.4 percent of sixth graders reported being bullied.
With Richmond and Henrico schools having some of the highest reported cases of bullying in the state, the chances are that it's happened to your own child or someone you know.
One Chesterfield student shared her story. Jane (not her real name) is now 14, but a year ago she was the new girl in school and her classmates were writing the word "whore" in chalk outside her home.
They put condoms on her front door, threw eggs at her house and slashed her family's tires.
"It was a very hard year for me last year," she said.
"You have to pretend to brush it off when, at the end of the day when you go home, that's the hardest because it affects how you are around your family," she said. "You're just down all the time. That's how I was last year."
Jane's mother says the bullying was relentless.
"We broke leases. We moved to try to get away from it and nothing, nothing worked," she said.
And then one day, her daughter was badly injured.
"She got knocked out. Where her head was actually cracked to the back of head just for looking at somebody the wrong way," Jane's mother said.
Jane hit her head on concrete and got a concussion. "There was cameras out and everything like it was planned," she said. "She grabbed me by my hair and [beat me]. I had never gotten in a fight before. I really didn't know what do to. So, I just laid there."
Many NBC12 viewers have shared similar stories, sending them in to the newsroom.
"I am at my wits end with a bullying situation," one parent wrote. Another said, "they are harassing my son." Another wrote, "I feel my child is in an unsafe environment."
Many of the parents make the same complaint-- the school system isn't listening to me. "It's taken us a year to get the school system to take this seriously," Jane's mother said.
According to the most recent US Department of Education data, from the2011-2012 school year, there were more than 6,000 bullying incidents reported in schools around the state.
"That's a big number-- but bullying is almost an epidemic," said Dr. Bill Bosher.
Prince William County had the most-- reporting 515 bullying incidents. Fairfax County followed closely with 502 incidents. Richmond reported the 3rd most bullying cases in the state—400, and Henrico County was right behind with 360 reported incidents.
"That number for Richmond and Henrico is far more significant based upon their student populations than it would be for Fairfax, which is 4 times the size of Henrico," said Bosher, former superintendent and NBC12's education analyst. He said schools are required to keep these stats. Bullying is tracked separately from incidents of harassment and threats, and it's someone's job to decide how to classify each incident.
"Then you're having the interpretation of what's harassment, what's a threat and what's bullying," said Bosher.
Two years ago, lawmakers got involved and legally defined bullying for school districts as any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate or humiliate the victim. It must involve a real or perceived imbalance of power and the behavior has to be repeated.
"It's often hard for school personnel to document where's the imbalance of power cause it changes," said Michelle Schmitt of Virginia Commonwealth University's Center for School-Community Collaboration. Schmitt, who works closely with the policymakers, said many districts are addressing bullying the best they can. She said it just takes time to build a case and there are privacy issues.
"When they do discipline, when they are doing counseling to try and change somebody's poor behavior, that has to be kept private. So, it looks like nothing is happening," said Schmitt.
For Jane, the bullying finally stopped when she fought back. She ended up suspended from school and in trouble with a judge, but he took into account the bullying and ordered her to take a class on how to walk away.
"I'm not saying violence is the answer, but sometimes you need to stand up for yourself in order to make a point," said Jane.
Parents can do a lot to help their children in these situations.
Listen. Document everything. If there's a police report to file, do it. Also, consider counseling for your child to help them learn to cope.
Saturday, July 26 2014 2:09 PM EDT2014-07-26 18:09:07 GMT
A mysterious 'Woman in Black' has been spotted around the Tri-State in recent days, causing social media to erupt with questions about her identity. According to WATE in Tennessee, the Sullivan CountyMore >>
A mysterious 'Woman in Black' has been spotted around the Tri-State in recent days, causing social media to erupt with questions about her identity.More >>
Monday, July 28 2014 7:11 AM EDT2014-07-28 11:11:00 GMT
It's no exaggeration to say history is about to unfold tomorrow in Downtown Richmond. Former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen are going on trial, battling corruption charges and battling to saveMore >>
It's no exaggeration to say history is about to unfold Monday in Downtown Richmond. Former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen are going on trial, battling corruption charges and battling to saveMore >>
Monday, July 28 2014 4:25 PM EDT2014-07-28 20:25:29 GMT
Chesterfield Police are looking for the man who they said ran from officers Sunday night. The chase started about 8 p.m. Sunday night along James Street near Virginia State University. Officers saidMore >>
Chesterfield Police are looking for the man who they said ran from officers Sunday night. More >>
Monday, July 28 2014 1:00 AM EDT2014-07-28 05:00:55 GMT
Copyright 2014 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.More >>
Sara Bruehl, 18, was killed after a stranger shot her in the head, while she was driving, 15 years ago this summer. Sara's mother is using every avenue, including social media, to hunt down her daughter's killer.More >>