A special needs student (left) was seen being hit on video
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -
As two teens await sentencing for bullying a special-needs student, the focus turns to prevention. Some want more awareness and education in Clark County schools.
"People with disabilities - they don't only need our support, but they deserve it," said Jason Smith, state director for Best Buddies Nevada.
Best Buddies is an organization that works to build friendships among the intellectually and developmentally disabled. The local chapters currently have more than 5,000 volunteers.
At least one study has shown that 83 percent of disabled kids and young adults have been bullied, just like the young man in a local video that has since gone viral on the internet.
"It's a very sad reality that everybody faces - but again, people with disabilities - they face the most of it," Smith said.
At Best Buddies, the goal is to look past the disability and see the person for who they are. One volunteer - Natasha Chuidia - was bullied in high school.
"It was hard, and lonely, and scary," she said.
Chuidia would like to see schools go so far as to make bullying awareness a subject to be studied. At the very least, she just wants classmates to be kind to one another.
"Like there's a light in the tunnel to go to," she added. "Because it seemed dark before, you know? Like there's no hope, but here comes Best Buddies."
Smith believes the core issue comes down to isolation.
"In most school environments, they're riding on a separate bus, they're getting educated in a separate classroom, they're not eating together at lunch time with their peers, or they're separated," he said.
Smith added that bullying often peaks in middle school, which he says makes it even more important to reach out to that age group.
Best Buddies currently has chapters in two colleges, two middle schools, and 13 high schools in Southern Nevada.
Copyright 2012 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.