Faculty from the University of Central Florida have launched a Florida network for anti-bullying researchers, advocates and organizations to share ideas, progress and solutions.

The Bully-Free Florida Network will serve as an online hub for studies, events, projects, policies and other information related to bullying. A web forum will allow users to collaborate, network and engage in discussions about bullying.

Still in its infancy, the network was started this year by faculty in UCF’s College of Education and Human Performance.

“I noticed that a lot of groups did not know what the others were doing, and I saw an opportunity to link us all together to share information and progress,” said associate faculty member Philip Koger. “There are so many groups and individuals doing great things to combat bullying, and I wanted a way to unite us.”

Koger spent more than 10 years teaching high school social studies in South Carolina before moving into administrative roles. He saw school bullying firsthand and has since made the subject one of his primary research interests.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, nearly 30 percent of students ages 12 to 18 are bullied at school each year. Cruel behavior and teasing also can take place anywhere, anytime electronically. A 2011 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 16 percent of high school students were victims of cyberbullying in the past year.

Bullying is an epidemic and education and dialogue are needed to combat it, Koger said.

“With a situation like bullying, it gets in the news and people are interested in it, and then it’s out of the news and people are less interested,” Koger said. “But what folks don’t realize it that it’s the law for schools to have policies related to bullying.”

Associate Professor Cynthia Hutchinson, graduate teaching assistants Donnie Fields and Jorge Valentin, and technology support staff Wendy Williams and Pam Pang, all from the College of Education and Human Performance, assisted with the development of the network.

Koger and colleagues are working with school district administrators, universities, educators, advocates and others statewide to spread the word about the network and their collaborative approach to curb bullying.

To learn more about the Bully-Free Florida Network, visit http://education.ucf.edu/bullyfree/.