HARTLAND, Maine. (WABI) A former bus driver-turned-Sheriff's Deputy returned to the school district where he used to work to talk about bullying.
Kids at Somerset Valley Middle School in Hartland took part in a discussion aimed at bullying and its victims.
"So what is bullying? It is defined as unwanted aggressive behavior."
Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster joined his deputy Mike Cray at Somerset Valley Middle School for a candid discussion on bullying.
With the advent of social media, those that are the target of hazing find it hard to escape even when at home. 1 in 4 students are now reporting being a victim of bullying- either mentally, verbally, or physically.
"So if you're not being bullied, you know someone who is and it affects all of us," said Lancaster.
"It's awful easy to them to take and put stuff down with a few taps on a keyboard and send it to somebody. And they don't really realize what a devastating effect that may have on somebody," said Cray.
"Bullying is everywhere and there's like very few ways to, you know, escape it and like fix it. But one way is like talking to somebody and getting help," said Kim, a 7th grade student.
Mike Cray prides himself on being that person students can reach out to if they need help or want to talk. Cray worked for the Sheriff's Office decades ago before taking a job for RSU #19.
After driving bus for nearly 20 years, he returned to work as a Sheriff's Deputy in April and has been trying to get back in schools to talk to kids at a young age about the damaging effects of bullying.
"You've got to think about what the effects are coming down the road. If they don't start working on this stuff now and learning about this stuff now, then they're probably going to end up doing some of the things that bullies do," said Cray.
Studies show that children who exhibit bully-like behavior are more likely to drop out of school or become involved in criminal activity later on in life.
"I've seen bullying before and I've been bullied before, and I think a little hint of advice is to just maybe to ignore the person bullying because that's one way that they can get to you," said Samantha, a 7th grader.
"Let it just brush right off your back," said 7th grader Roland.
For students here in Hartland, they say the best way to stand up to bullying is to treat people with compassion, acceptance, and respect.