In 2011, nearly half of middle school students in the state reported being bullied on school property, an increase from 2009's nearly 47 percent of middle school students. The number of West Virginia middle school students who have thought about killing themselves also increased to 20 percent in 2011.
"A lot of the focus has been on high school students but maybe we should start awareness in elementary school," Barnett-Huff said Monday. "We need to educate students. Kids need this."
Barnett-Huff said Bully Free West Virginia has educated parents so they know how to teach their own children. The group also hosts an anti-bullying summit for teachers and youth leaders from the state. This year's summit discussed how to keep children "cyber-safe" and how to curb bullying on the Internet.
In March, West Virginia became the seventh state to enact the Jason Flatt Act of 2012, which requires that educators be trained to recognize students at risk of suicide.
Last year, the state Department of Education approved a policy outlining expected behavior in schools, providing employees, students and parents with the same guidelines for bullying situations.
The policy is the foundation of the department's "It Does Matter" campaign, a program in public schools across the state to remind students that their problems are heard.
"Hosting this vigil let's people know where they can get resources, and that's how we're going to see bullying go down in West Virginia -- by educating," Barnett-Huff said.
For more information, email Bully Free West Virginia at bullyfre...@stepbystepwv.org or call 304-414-4452.
Reach Megan Workman at megan.work...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.