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October 14, 2010

Bullying without end?

Jon Carmichael, age 13

Hope Witsell, age 13

Justin Aaberg, age 15

Asher Brown, age 13

Seth Walsh, age 13

Phoebe Prince, age 15

Billy Lucas, age 15

All of these children — from places like Houston; Tehachapi, Calif.; and Rushkin, Fla. — killed themselves this year. Each was a victim of bullying, or what is now called “bullicide.” Many of these teens were also victims of anti-gay hate crimes.

Here we are in October — National Bullying Prevention Month — and rarely have we seen, directly as a result of bullying, such a high toll of teenage suicides in less than a year. What’s so confounding is that now, more than ever, there’s ramped-up awareness about bullying, more anti-bullying programs in schools across the country, and more anti-bullying legislation passed in 45 states.

Who do we blame now that so many bullied kids are taking their lives? The bullies who continue their abuse unchecked? Negligent school administrators? Lax state and federal laws? Adults who aren’t taking kids’ and parents’ complaints seriously enough?

Read news reports following most any of these kids’ suicides. The victims’ parents often echo one another, saying that their school’s administration didn’t take strong action following repeated complaints. This is the case with 13-year-old Asher Brown, whose parents said he was “'bullied to death’ — picked on for his small size, his religion and because he did not wear designer clothes and shoes. Kids also accused him of being gay, some of them performing mock gay acts on him in his physical education class… The 13-year-old's parents said they had complained about the bullying to Hamilton Middle School officials during the past 18 months, but claimed their concerns fell on deaf ears.”

Or, despite undergoing anti-bullying training at Jacobsen Middle School in Tehachapi, administrators still didn’t put an end to the bullying of 13-year-old Seth Walsh.

(Imagine going to work and, day after day, having office mates send out humiliating and threatening emails to the entire staff and tripping and punching you as you walk by their cubicles. And continuing to have to show up, without anyone putting an end to your physical and emotional abuse.)

How can we save bullied kids’ lives? Columnist Dan Savage has done his part for GLBT (gay, lesbian, bixexual, and transgender) kids by launching the It Gets Better Project, with grown-ups giving testimonies that, once they left school, life got better for them. (There are compelling reasons to directly reach out to GLBT kids: Nine out of 10 GLBT students have experienced harassment at school and are bullied two to three times as much as straight teens. More than one-third of GLBT kids have attempted to commit suicide and are four times as likely to attempt suicide then their straight peers.)

There’s hope that with a strong enough no-tolerance campaign for bullying, such abuse will virtually end. A friend who is familiar with the schools in Norway has told me that’s what happened in that country. Home of the original anti-bullying program, Olweus, which is being implemented in many U.S. schools, bullying there is far less common, just through the sheer force of creating a zero-tolerance anti-bullying culture.


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Thank you for writing about this topic. Its so very important. I appreciate you relating the topic to what it would be like for adults. Its outrageous that kids are facing these challenges. I remember many self-esteem programs through elementary school, do schools still do that? I thought it was helpful. I do think that many of these bullies learn from example and learn to treat other people poorly by watching people in their home - its important to teach children compassion and about being nice to people.

As someone who was bullied for years until I developed a solid right hook, I now ask how such was allowed.

I recall my parents meeting with a school counselor to discuss the bullying perpetrated by the usual suspects. I also remember my father telling me to take a baseball bat to school. Perhaps it was a right of passage for all timid young males.

In the case of bullying those as a result of one's sexual orientation, race, religion, etc., a trip to Juvenile Hall might be in order. We would never allow adults to engage in such behavior. The sooner we teach these children this, the better.

Please document these events..........be able to prove they are true..........do not slander, the truth is the truth........ and then post the Family Tree of the Bully on here, list the entire family and their place of employment and where they all attend school, be sure to use the city, county and state. Peer disapproval has always been the best medicine for such behavior. I bet when the parents get a taste of the humiliation it will stop or at least slow down. When someone does a search for this issue on google, etc., we will then see the name of the BULLY and their family, school place of employment and any other available information. I would probably even list their address and the cars they drive. Let us put a stop to this.

Of course no one wants their child to be bullied or be a bully. True bullying should be reported and dealt with in a serious thoughtful manner by school authorities. But before we resurrect the Witch-hunts of the late Middle Ages (which resulted in up to 100,000 executions), let's remember that some parents scream "bully" when thier kids have a minor bruised feeling. Being labeled "bully" by a loud overprotective parent can have equally negative consequences to the self esteme of a falsely accused child. (I have witnessed this happening at my daughter's school.) Instead these helicopter parents should be teaching their kids coping skills that will serve them the rest of their lives instead of encouraging a "victim" role for their children to play.

I agree with the above poster. While I keep a pretty close eye on the bullying that goes on between my own children at homes and yank it out of existence, I also try to teach my kids to be assertive and to protect themselves. If they are being chased on the playground, "Yell, Leave me alone!" If someone is sending cyber-bully type messages- block them or ignore their text messages. Just don't read them. We wrok very hard to give our chldren opportunities to develop a healthy self esteem and sense of their worth so that they don't have to believe any negative messages there hear about themselves from others. We also encourage them to reach out to lonely kids. It's worked so far.

I was bullied all through school because I was always the "new kid", mom moved every couple of years. Because I had no confidence, with each move, it followed me...

I dropped out of US Grant High school in Oklahoma city, and looking back, it was the best thing I ever did for myself. I have never looked back, left the state, and got (and use) my college degree elsewhere.

It does get better but, dont expect any child that has been bullied in your state to stick around and share talents and skills once they finally develop them. First impressions are lasting ones.

I'm a parent now and am still being bullyed I have special needs as well as my 2 kids do and I have attepted and almost was succuful few yrs ago couldn't deal with it as the same my son did something to that almost ended the whole family tryed of life my girl hates school never wants to go sick feeling wants to kill her self and tells the details of how couseals blames ME! its your fault you made them that way help one one

Bullying has gotten better for my child as we, as a family, learned to adjust ourselves to this very challenging social reality. Because bullying was never a major issue until my LD child started school, we, as a family, were vulnerable and emotionally reactive. Four years and three schools later we are developing coping skills. First, I moved my kid from a private school and into a public school because my kid has more legal clout. Second, my husband and I are resolved to use the legal system should the need arise. This being said, we have instructed our son to remove himself from the situation first, and if he can't - fight to inflict pain. My child's school sends home a daily behavior report - I am using these to document his history of good behavior should the need arise. We have also taught my son to view bullies as weak, broken people whom don't have the support of their parents in teaching right from wrong. This way he can view this anti social type with compassion. The combination of all of this has worked out well. It is tricky to walk the fine line - treat with compassion and be no one's fool. However, because my son has learned to be this way he is friends with the class bully - whom actually helps protect him from other bullies - while he is also friends with happier, healthier people. My husband and I support our child in his decisions. Our confidence in him helps him feel confident about himself. Somehow, It works. Sorry this is so long - but we have had a long, hard journey and my heart goes out to anyone whom is confronting this horrible, horrible social disease.

On October 11, 2010, I almost lost my 11yr old son to bullying. His 8 yr old sister found him and came and got me. He had used his jump rope to hang himself from his bunk beds. He was not breathing when I got him off his bed. I had to revive him.

We had been talking about the kids who were bullying him at great length but he never said specifically what they were saying. He would just tell me if the day was good or bad and who was involved. We would always talk about ignoring what they would say. Point out some things that made him unique and told him how much we loved him everyday.

Still trying to process the pain of the what ifs. The school seems to be working hard at keeping him safe but the officer did a horrible job. He did not investigate or question anyone who knew my son. The mom of 2 of the bullies is now talking up a storm telling other parents that my son is using her boys as scapegoats for his mistake. 2 doctors have diagnosed him with depression related to bullying and suicide attempt with the intent to die from bullying.

What do I do? I feel so lost and hurt.

well I have wrote before and have been working really close with the school her doctor and friends,family so on and the bullying calmed butjust within I got a phone call and and my heart drop to the floor and now we can't turn back she is not able to care for herself anymore she is home bounded medical care 24/7 in and out of the hospital and this is all because of a bully thought it was fun to prey on a special challage child and the school sayin she needed to stop with the tattling and go play.

Many ways to overcome bullying,There is an awesome article on this subject also tools and products,for children to learn about bullies and techniques with in the bedtime story ,this allows them to understand,learn adapting,rapport building skills and most of all awareness of the bullies traits and how to deal with them.I believe this is a great starting point for children and parents have a read and give me your comments

please stop bullies

im sorry for all children who lost their lives because of bullies, THIS HAS TO STOP!

Peer disapproval has always been the best medicine for such behavior. I bet when the parents get a taste of the humiliation it will stop or at least slow down. When someone does a search for this issue on google, etc., we will then see the name of the BULLY and their family, school place of employment and any other available information.

This is horrible. Bully needs to stop. Parents need to teach there children not to bully from there childhood

I was once bullied in a new school and the administration was not effective in stopping it. My mother pulled me out and sent me to live with my aunt for a year...I know it would have been a year of sheer hell otherwise. I would say anyone who has this going on for more than a month, pull your kid out of school, move, do whatever it takes. Not kidding. All three of my kids have taken Aikido and though small, never had a problem with bullying... more than once. Not necessarily a violent response, either. My oldest daughter and her friends in 1st grade were being followed by boys and rocks thrown at them. She dropped into frog hop position and started hopping wildly toward them. They ran away shrieking and it never happened again. She shifted the energy. Aikido can shift your energy in a month, perhaps the skills take longer...

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