"The word is thrown around a lot because people are aware of it, and that is not a bad thing. (But) there is a threshold you have to reach about what is and is not bullying, and there is a real danger in the word being thrown around so much."
-- Beaufort County Sheriff's Office Capt. Bob Bromage
The key to surviving school is keeping up with the trends.
Knowing outfit or label everyone is wearing.
Knowing the slang everyone is texting.
Knowing what music everyone is listening to.
But one trend is making school more difficult for students: bullying.
Even more, bullying's buzzword-status is making it challenging to identify and address true instances of bullying.
"People want to automatically say everything is bullying. They hear about something and say, 'What happened? Oh, that's bullying,'" said Greory McCord, the Beaufort County School District's head of student services. "We need to get away from that and understand, 'What is real bullying?'"
It is a pattern of behavior with the intention to intimidate or harass someone. It is not a one- or two time occurrence that is done aimlessly, said Capt. Bob Bromage, spokesman for the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.
"The word is thrown around a lot because people are aware of it, and that is not a bad thing," he said. "(But) there is a threshold you have to reach about what is and is not bullying, and there is a real danger in the word being thrown around so much."
That danger comes in the form of people becoming desensitized to the word, said national bullying expert Dorothy Espelage, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois.
"The term bullying has been applied to everything, so much so that it loses its meaning," she said. "It can almost become a distraction to focus on the bullying part instead of really understanding the problems or mental health issues students may be having -- we are not talking about what we should be talking about."
With the trendiness of bullying and eagerness to define all peer-to-peer conflict as such, the risk is that real instances of bullying could be overlooked and fail to get the attention they need, McCord said.
The school district has been mindful to make sure that every instance of bullying reported on its newly created anti-bullying app is investigated by school officials.
While some reports have been false or have been instances of teasing that do not elevate to the level of bullying, many others have helped intervene in actual cases, McCord said.
"That's the key, more than anything else: Helping students, families and the public to understand what are true cases of bullying," he said. "We don't want to overidentify something just as we don't want to under report something else."