to the News Page:
(New items are below the Introduction paragraphs ... )
There are at least two major ways to keep up with bullying-related
developments in the media, one hard and one easy.
The hard way is to encounter the flood of media in which we are all
immersed every day in this information age and have a
perspective that makes the bullying-related stories
evident. This means keeping in mind the dual
characteristics that define bullying and distinguish
it from the world of violence in which it is embedded:
bullying involves negative acts by peers and imbalance
of power. With that definitional clarity in mind, it
is possible to spot bullying-related stories even when
- as is exceedingly common - they are not headlined or
labeled as such. In reading the New York Times or any
newspaper each day, for example, there are many
stories that one would not realize are about bullying
without the definition in mind. One example is a
story (in October '04, I believe) describing the
plight of a man recently discharged from state
prison. He had been subjected to sexual slavery,
repeatedly assaulted and degraded, all occurring with
the implicit and longstanding knowledge of the prison
administrators who by any reasonable standard would be
held accountable for the violent peer relations that
typify prison life. "Negative acts by peers"
and "imbalance of power" equal bullying, but
the word is never mentioned in the story.
Another example would be the many news stories about sexual assault of women. While it is important to call these acts by all of their names, including sexual assault, rape, etc., it is also important to note that many of these stories are characteristized by imbalance of power, pattern of negative acts, intent to harm, often in institutional settings as well, and are therefore also acts of bullying. Women assaulted in military academies (or even in the military) is such an example. The assaults occur in institutional settings with predominantly male populations (and leaders), incidents often involve multiple perpetrators and one victim, there is often a pattern of negative acts such as preceding sexual harassment if not other assaults. These acts are bullying, as well as being sexual assaults, rapes, sexual harassment. But the term bullying is almost never used.
The easier way to keep up with media coverage of bullying is to sign up for
a news service such as
Google's ("Google Alerts" ). The sign-up (free at the moment) delivers
to your email a daily list of links to news
stories (from all over the world) in which
the word bullying appears. Predictably,
the prison slavery story was not among the
notices. But most other stories do appear.
Note that the listing is very specific.
That is, the daily email will only contain stories that have the specific word "bullying"; stories about hazing,
for example, will not appear: that requires
a separate Alert sign-up for that term.
January 2013: More bullying-related new items, through today:
What is Next for Rutgers 4-13
Opening Up Students Transform a Vicious Circle 4-13
Upon Further Review at Rutgers 4-13
The Rutgers Scandal 4-13
Statutory Rape Twitter and a Divide 4-13
Minorities Will Become Majority 3-13
Half of Newark Children In Poverty 2-13
New School Report Cards 4-13
Air Force Instructor Sentenced 4-13
New Medical Exam Policy for Sexual Assault Cases 4-13
Missing the Basics on Bullying 3-13
A Boss Challenge 3-13
Your Phone vs. Your Heart 3-13
Spying on Muslims 3-13
Iowa Town Named for Muslim Hero 5-13
Lies We Tell in Exam Room 04-13
Report Urges Action and Condemns Brutal Rape of Indian Women 01-13
To Raise Graduation Rates Colleges Urged to Help Changing Student Body 01-13
Arms and the Women 01-13
For Obama New Term Starts Here 01-13
Air Force Leaders Acknowledge Sexual Assaults on Recruits 01-13
Ed. Dept. Orders Sports Access for Disabled 01-13
Disabled Kids Play Sports 01-13
Psychotherapy to Prevent PTSD 1-7-13
Chicago Faulted on Learning Disabilities 01-13
States Get Failing Grades on Public School Policies 01-13
Cornell Withdraws Recognition of Fraternity 01-13
Jeanne Manford 01-13
Illinois Fraternity Hazing 12-12
Kids should grade teachers 1-13-13
Gifted and talented Times 1-13-13
Slavery - Blow - Times 1-13
Yeshiva U and abuse Times 1-13
More guns more killing Times 1-13
Counseling and school safety Colford 1-13
DANNY CHEN SUICIDE 07-12
CHILD SEX ABUSE RATE 06-12
STAR ATHLETE BIG MOVE 06-12
PRIVATE TALKED OF SUICIDE 07-12
FOR SOME WHO SERVED 06-12
WARNING TO TEENAGERS 06-12
DEAL IN ALBANY 06-12
ALABAMA TO END ISOLATION 12-12
WALKING TIGHTROPE MENTAL HEALTH 12-12
PROSECUTOR SEXUAL ABUSE CASE 12-12
GUIDING GAY EVANGELICALS 12-12
SPENCER COX 12-12
A NEW FOCUS PT STRESS 12-12
THE POWER OF A MOMS LOVE 12-12
LAWS OF PHYSICS 12-12
SEXUAL ASSAULT MILITARY 11-12
FORMER PENN STATE 11-12
SCHOOLBOOK REPORT ASSESS 02-12
FOR LESSER CRIMES 12-12
SCHOOLHOUSE TO COURTHOUSE 12-12
ARMY OFFICER REACHES DEAL 12-12
TOO SOON TO TELL ON NEWARK GRAD RATES 12-12
WHO WILL HOLD COLLEGES ACCOUNTABLE 12-12
ITS HARD TO BE A HERO 12-12
LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE 12-12
TWO COLLEGES PUT ON NOTICE 12-12
PACT ON LOUISIANA JAIL 12-12
WASHINGTON BORDER GUARDS 12-12
COACHES AUTHORITY NO LONGER ABSOLUTE 12-12
DO WE HAVE THE COURAGE 12-12
GRADING IS DEGRADING 11-12
THE ELITE EIGHT 11-12
SANDUSKY VICTIM SUES 08-12
SEXUAL ASSAULTS AMHERST 11-12
WORKPLACE HARASSMENT 11-12
BULLIES ON BUS 06-12
FAILURES OF HIERARCHY 07-12
INQUIRY FAULTS PATERNO 07-12
SOLDIER TALKED OF SUICIDE 07-12
med student abuse Times 8-12
rape in india Times 1-13
college degree Times 12-12
philly closing schools Times 1-13
motor skills and school Times 1-13
juvenile court tennessee 1-13
abuse and religion - Times - 1-13
11/12/12: A few months (oldest is June) of bullying-related news items mainly from the Times, with comments ...
private school inclusion - Times - 10-21-12
Web chaos - Times - 10-21-12
segregation in US schools - Times - 9-12
psych approach - Brooks - Times - 9-12
social factors in performance - Times - 10-12
suspensions of disabled students - Times - 8-12
Rutgers improvements - Times - 9-12
Star Ledger articles - excerpts - 10-12
boogaard hockey lawsuit Times 9-12
violence exposure - Times - 9-12
new tech high school Times 10-12
How to Succeed review Times 8-12
stop-and-frisk Times letters 6-12
social mobilkity - Times - 9-12
Troop suicides Times 6-12
nyc elite school admissions 10-12
Binghamton U hazing Times 9-12
a death by suicide in 1952 Times 9-12
childrens books about bullying 10-12
Times review of Paul Tough book 9-12
Christian org protest of anti-bullying program Times 10-12
Turnaround program - Times column - 7-121
invisible war - review - Times
childrens non-cognitive skills Times 8-12
free from the institution Times 9-12
autistic students and bullying Times 9-12
hazing in the military Times 8-12
hazing harms Times 8-12
what makes a school best Times 6-12
Prison abuse Times 9-12
The problem with metal detectors Times 9-12
Below are various articles of interest published in the NY Times over the past two months or so, some with comments. All are relevant to the problem of bullying.
VA and veterans - Times - 5-27-12
Integration - letters - 5-27-12
Prisons and profits - Blow - Times 5-25-12
Hazing Florida AandM - 5-23-12
Prison abuse - Times - 5-17-12
Mary Gordon Roots of Empathy - Times - 5-12-12
Segregated Schools - Times - 5-12-12
Hazing - Band Director Retires 5-11-12
Editorial Care for Disabled 5-7-12
Editorial Hazing 5-7-12
Sexual Assault in Military 4-17-12
Editorial - Kids in Adult Prisons 4-8-12
School paddling - Times - 3-29-11
Editorial Dream Act 3-27-12
Violence Boston U Hockey - 3-8-12
Editorial Sexual Violence in the Military 3-8-12
Editorial Football Hits 3-7-12
Catholic Church Abuse Prevention 2-6-12
LA school abuse by teachers 2-6-12
Smaller High Schools - Times - 2-1-12
Rikers Assaults by Inmates - Guard Sentenced 2-1-12
As the NY Times editorial linked below makes clear, schools continue to rely on discredited 'zero tolerance' approaches to bullying and other behavioral issues in schools. The result is that this essentially biased ('racist' would not be too strong a term to use) approach to discipline disproportionately suspends and expels students of color from schools all over the country, not only or especially in NJ. It was federal review that uncovered the outrage. While it's very good to have the data, it's been clear to advocates for a long time that overly harsh, and inconsistently and disparately applied consequences are a part of the problem, not the solution, for bullying and other school issues. As we've said in talks for a long time, a school that does not apply a reasonable consequence to a student who bullies because of bias in that student's favor (e.g., because the parents have status or power, or because the student is 'otherwise' very popular with staff), tremendously undermines the school's approach to bullying. In the same way, a school that overfocuses on behavior problems in its minority populations (and 'over-penalizes' students of color, e.g.) while not focusing equally on non-minority students also has a serious school culture problem which will limit the effectiveness of anti-bullying approaches.
Students of color disproportionately punished by schools
The Times editorial linked below convincingly demonstrates that anti-Islam attitudes and behavior still run rampant in schools. The editorial describes a situation in Texas, but there is no reason to assume that such bias is not in play in NJ and other states. In fact, representatives of Muslim organizations have expressed strong concerns about bullying of Muslim students, including in NJ. And the issue is not only whether schools react appropriately to incidents in which Muslim students are targeted. The real issue is the extent to which school administrators and staff adequately affirm, support and protect the school's Muslim students. Schools should know that Muslim students are currently living with the pressure of widely held negative attitudes toward them in our society. Schools have a responsibility to actively counter such attitudes, and demonstrate strong support for Muslim communities and students. It is not sufficient to wait for incidents to occur.
School bias toward Muslim students
The article below applauds NJ schools for a relatively (as compared to other states) high graduation rate (almost 87%). But that's a state average, with significant disparities, with white students over 90% and black students at about 70% and Latino students below 70%. And in Newark, the rate is about 50%! These are national problems, for sure, but NJ problems as well. It is difficult to adequately strengthen school culture and climate, in order to effectively address school violence (including its most common form - bullying) when the underlying reality is significant disparities in educational achievement.
Deserving of a Pat on the Back 6-10-11
Jennings Leaves Fed DOE, 6-11
The departure of Kevin Jennings from the Federal Department of Education is a big deal for anti-bullying advocates. From our point of view, one of the best things Arne Duncan (head of the DOE) and President Obama (who appointed Duncan) did was bring in Jennings (a founder/director of GLSEN - the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network). On Jennings' watch, the issue of bullying, and specifically the situation of LGBT youth, benefited greatly from long-overdue government attention (and funding). Jennings was continuously under attack from anti-gay bigots and it's unclear to what extent such continuing/escalating pressures played a role in his departure. But it's better to think of Jennings continuing to do great work, this time as the new leader of a national advocacy organization, "Be the Change". Advocates are tremendously appreciative of what he's done.
Jennings Leaves Fed DOE 6-11
NJbullying.org Work Wins NJ Award 5011
Green Award 5-11
Postings from New York Times - articles dating back to 6/09.
Teens plead guilty to bullying girl who killed herself 5-4-11
Seminar offers plenty of advice for anti-bullying programs 4-1-11
Dogged by bullies from preschool to middle school 3-31-11
Bullying dispute erupts at Wayne school over Taliban comment 11-12-10
Making campuses safer 4-19-11
Better protecting prisoners 4-6-11
Walmart versus women 4-6-11
Obama takes aim at inequality in education 4-6-11
Bergen record article 3-30-11
Should schools be allowed to use corporal punishment 3-30-11
High school graduation rate in the city is lower than reported 3-29-11
A victim her picture and facebook 3-29-11
A girls nude photo and altered lives 3-26-11
Parents of Rutgers student in suicide say no harsh penalty is needed 3-22-11
Separate and unequal 3-21-11
Obamas Focus on Antibullying Efforts 3-10-11
Legislature Spotlights Bullying in Schools 3-3-11
The Wages of Bullying Letter 2-21-11
Lawsuit says military is rife with sexual abuse 2-16-11
Web of Popularity Achieved by Bullying 2-14-11
Trying to Hold Down Blue Language on a Red-Letter Day 2-12-11
Christie Signs Tougher Law on Bullying in Schools 1-6-11
California Child Suicide Under Investigation 12-22-10
Parents and Cyberbullying Teach the Children Values 12-13-10
Facebook Wrestles with Free Speech and Civility 12-12-10
Mom and Dad vs. the Cyberbully 12-11-10
A Range of Options for a Victims Parents 12-4-10
As Bullies Go Digital Parents Play Catch-Up 12-4-10
The Ways of Empathy 11-12-10
The Agenda Is Not So Hidden Its Tolerance 11-10-10
Fighting Bullying with Babies 11-8-10
Bullying and Civility in Public and Private Schools 11-7-10
In Efforts to End Bullying Some See Agenda 11-6-10
When Muslims Are Bullied 10-28-10
Help Stop Bullying U.S. Tells Educators 10-25-10
Campaign Offers Help to Gay Youths 10-18-10
Perez Hilton Vows to End Celebrity Insults 10-13-10
The Playground Gets Even Tougher 10-8-10
Tributes to a Young Suicide Victim at a Hometown Forum 10-7-10
Bullying Suicide Punishment 10-2-10
Private Moment Made Public Then a Fatal Jump 9-30-10
Strategies Take Shape for Trials in Bully Case 9-15-10
Some Ways To Thwart an Online Bully 8-18-10
Theres Only One Way to Stop a Bully 7-22-10
How to Deal With Bullying Online and Off 7-5-10
Should Schools Police Cyberbullying 7-4-10
Online Bullies Pull Schools Into the Fray 6-27-10
Antibullying Bill Goes to the Governor 6-23-10
A Best Friend - You Must be Kidding 6-16-10
Maybe Bullies Just Want to be Loved 5-21-10
Childhood - Overweight Children and Bullying 5-10-10
Teenage Insults Scrawled on Web Not on Walls 5-5-10
Tense School Meeting After Charges 4-14-10
Italian Judge Cites Profit as Justifying a Google Conviction 4-12-10
Teaching about the web and its troublesome parts 4-10-10
Documents detail a girls final days of bullying 4-8-10
Massachusetts - Not-guilty pleas in bullying 4-6-10
The myth of mean girls 4-2-10
Questions for school on bullying and suicide 4-1-10
Six teenagers are charged after classmates suicide 3-29-10
Playtime is over 3-27-10
Forget goofing around - Recess has a new boss 3-14-10
When American and European ideas of privacy collide 2-27-10
Northern Ireland - Acquittal at retrial 2-25-10
World Briefing Europe Britain - Fallout from bullying claims 2-25-10
California - Boys detained after prank 12-1-09
Italian prosecutors call for prison in a google case 11-26-09
Scandal at tower of london over treatment of female beefeater 11-3-09
Letter - Parents and hazing 10-5-09
When the cool get hazed 9-27-09
Coming out in middle school 9-27-09
Vague cyberbullying law 9-8-09
Stung by the perfect sting 8-26-09
Judge throws out conviction in cyberbullying case 7-3-09
At last facing down bullies and their enablers 6-9-09
Here are some items from the Times and the Star Ledger, just from the past week or so (with one exception). It's a selected, non-chronological sampling, not in order of importance, just as an attempt to add some currency to this section of the website. I don't have time at the moment to copy and paste the full articles but I'll provide the full headlines and the reporters' names (if not an editorial) and you can visit nytimes.com and starledger.com to obtain the full posts. (I'll revisit this posting and present the full articles, when I can.)
1. "Disabled Students Are Spanked More" by Sam Dillon, NY Times, 8/11/09.
2. A letter to the NY Times dated 4/27/09 by Herbert Pardes, "Obesity in Schools."
3. "New Jersey Tries to Put Safety First," by Winnie Hill, NY Times, 8/9/09.
4. "A worrisome trend," an editorial in NJ Star Leger (? date, but within the past several months).
5. "No More Cheeks to Turn," by Lorraine Duffy Merkl, a column, in the 'Complaint Box' section of the NY Times, 8/9/09.
6. "Bloomburg Plans to Stop Promoting Low-Performing Fourth and Sixth Graders," by Javier C. Hernandez, NY Times (? date, but recent).
7."Charter Schools Aren't The Cure-All for Failing Education," by Diane Ravitch, which I believe appeared in NJ Star Ledger, on 8/14, and is a reprint from the LA Times.
8. "Locking Up Fewer Children," an editorial which appeared in NY Times on 8/14/09.
3/17/09: Education and assimilation
A NY Times article describes schools in Maryland in which children who are recent immigrants with limited English-speaking skills are educated separately from other children and the problems that result. Here is the article:
Education and assimilation - times 3-09
And here is a letter sent to the Time about the article:
To the Editor:
The true nature and cause of conflict between the student groups described in "Where Education and Assimilation Collide" (Times, 3-15-09) could not be clearer. Adults are the cause - specifically the adults who wrongly decided that segregating students from each other was a valid educational strategy. Keeping immigrant students apart from others is a set-up for misunderstanding and peer conflict. There is no mention in the article of any attempt by school administrators to prepare to address the predictable social issues so inseparably a part of educators' responsibilities. The options they considered - between isolating the immigrant children, in order to ensure good test scores, and integrating the children, with inadequate educational support - are both unnacceptable. School leaders must help their communities understand: Children learning together, with the support each child needs capably provided, is the only safe and civil option.
Stuart Green, DMH, LCSW
Chair, NJ Commission on Bullying in Schools
Director, NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention
3/17/09: A powerful editorial in the NJ Star Ledger!
Star Ledger editorial 3-09
2/24/09: Article about last week's public hearing
NJ's newspapers have done a good job of covering the hearings, but I'm posting today's article from the Philadelphia Inquirer because their article has the most in-depth focus on the recent hearing and the issue.
Commission Lawrenceville hearing
2/23/09: Complications Inevitably Arise ...
Some of the complications that may arise as schools address bullying issues are captured in the following story about a boy in a Connecticut school whose parents are upset because the boy "was labeled a bully." As the story explains, there were several incidents in which the boy was identified as bullying others. From the parent's point of view, their son was victimized and striking back. There are numberous issues which may be relevant here. First, as the school principal points out, there is no indication that this phenomenon (mislabeling as "a bully") occurs much (if at all) - that's important because a legislator in the area is suggesting a new law requiring "due process" before a child is "identified as a bully." Second, it's not clear why a 'labeling' process (e.g., a letter in the boy's school record, in this case) was required (if it was) or needed. Third, as we have argued before, schools need to take a "relational" rather than "incident-based" view of bullying (and ideally proactive) - so that the emphasis is on good understanding of the circumstances (e.g., the relationship between the child targeted and those hurting him or her, the adequacy of the school's support of the targeted youth or youth who share the targeted characteristics) of the bullying, rather than only reacting to each incident when it occurs. There is something appealing about adopting a legalistic framework in addressing bullying - it fits the analogy between bullying and assault, emphasizes that there is indeed a victim and the importance of consquences and redress, etc. But because bullying is occurring between children, and in school, and is primarily a function of school culture and climate, a legalistic approach primarily or by itself won't adequately address the problem. It should be possible, e.g., in this case and others, to understand who is being bullied. But that is not to say things can't get complicated - for one thing there are a relatively small percentage of children who are bullied and also bully others.
Backlash on B
2/23/09: A critique of law
As the article linked below notes, a NY anti-bullying law is still being discussed. What's interesting about this article (from press in Saratoga) is the extensive quoting from bullypolice.org (a non-profit org which devotes itself to tracking the status of anti-bullying laws nationally). Bullypolice does good work - when last checked they rated NJ's law(s) in the Bplus range and liked Delaware's and Georgia's laws more (in part because of increased accountablity and consequences as compared to NJ's - and lots of other states' - laws). This article cites Florida and Kentucky as good examples, and lists a number of criteria for what makes a good law. A helpful review.
NY law - recs
2/23/09: The tragic death of Lawrence King
One of the questions raised by the suit is the extent to which the school's level of support of the child, or proactive support for the range of gender identity and expression can be said to have played a role in his death.
King suit 2-09
2/23/09: Stalking and bullying
Is stalking a form of bullying? While the Times article (linked below) does not address this explicitly, the question is implicitly present. How much stalking behavior starts at early ages? Is there an imbalance of power which makes it difficult for the target to defend herself? Are there institutional factors (in schools, or workplaces, or society) which provide implicit support to the person stalking (or inadequately address the behavior), while limiting options and support for the person targeted?
Stalking - NY Times 2-09
2/6/09: Supporting All Students
An exciting change is taking place! I'm inferring such a development from the appearance in today's NY Times of an article entitled "Powerhouse School District Reaches Beyond the Elite," and some other similar developments I've seen. The article is about a NY school district, Port Washington on Long Island, which is conducting a vigorous effort to engage so-called "middle" students (sometimes defined in negative terms as those without stellar grades and those who are not otherwise - e.g., athletically - 'stars') in more educational and extra-curricular activities in schools. ((The term "engagement" here is used deliberately, since 'school engagement' (usually defined as the student's perception that the school "cares about me") is one of the key characteristics which researchers suggest determines school success. (At the very least, this sense of engagement makes it much more likely a student will actually keep attending school - a common sense minimal requirement for the possibility of success, other factors aside.)) The "news" in this news story is that all students appear to be benefitting from this strategy, not only the 'middle' students. To those of us who are anti-bullying advocates, this is no surprise. To us, the proper headline for such a story would be: "Powerhouse School District Supports All Students." Such culture and climate change in a school, as multiple studies have indicated (though not conclusively shown), is powerful and indeed benefits all students. To us, supporting all students should be non-controversial. But of course, predictably, there are some objections. Some who are stars, and presumably their families, worry that education and will be somehow watered down if we actually start paying more systematic attention to the bulk of students who need more support. In fact, as the article (below) describes, such potential (or even actual) 'watering down' is not a problem. And the benefits of supporting all students are great, including (though not mentioned in this particular article) improving peer relations and reducing bullying.
Beyond the Elite
1/30/09: Workplace Protections - Children Too?
It's interesting, from the point of view of a bullying-focused advocate, to see the now rapid strengthening of national (federal) protections for workers against workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation. (See the NY Times Editorial, today, attached below.) In terms of bullying, we have in NJ Frank Vespa-Papaleo's (when he was Director of NJ Division on Civil Rights) groundbreaking decision in the LW case that employer obligations to protect workers from harassment also applied to the situation of children in school, reasoning which was substantially upheld both by NJ's Court of Appeals as well as the NJ Supreme Court (discliamer: I am not a lawyer, so take my descriptions of court decisions with a grain of salt). However, note that in some sense Vespa-Papaleo's courageous (given the storm he stirred up) decision was stating the obvious (which no one else before him had ever noticed, or stated!). That is, that the NJ Law Against Discrimination, on which Vespa-Papaleo relied (because it is one of the strongest in the nation) does not ever use the word "adult" to describe the workers it is protecting - in fact, the law uses only the word "person." That's the sense in which it could have been evident that the law's sense of justice (protecting vulnerable workers) should have also applied to children in 'work-like' (e.g., school) settings. Again, I'm not a lawyer, but I am noting the quickening process now taking place through the new US administration's actions (e.g., the Ledbetter law) and the US Supreme's Court's actions (see the attached Editorial). Is the need to strengthen protections for children in schools also obvious?
Times Editorial - workplace protections
1/27/09: 'Digital Harassment' new campaign
A New York Times article published today (in the 'Advertising' section) describes a new Ad Council campaign just started (w help from Google) which is aimed at helping teens (especially girls) who are harassed by cell phone (text messaging) and other electronic means (cyberbullying, in other terms). As the article accurately notes, the electronic bullying is occuring between kids who have relationships in 'real space', not only in 'cyberspace' - and most of those relationships are 'building-based' (school) and in the local community. The article also makes the connection (a continuum) between dating violence and cyberbullying. Here's the article:
Digital harassment 1-09
1/14/09: Teen Cosmetic Surgery - and Bullying!
See the attached article about teens and cosmetic surgery. Sadly but not surprisingly (which is itself sad), avoiding bullying is one of the reasons cited for parents arranging for teens to have cosmetic surgeries. A second interesting point is the way the reporter includes bullying in the article. Bullying is cited as one of three "destructive" behaviors cosmetic surgery may somehow address/reduce - the other two behaviors cited are self-mutilation and eating disorders. What's remarkable about this configuration is lack of recognition of the dramatic difference between the three items. Bullying is an assault perpetrated on a person by other people. While there are social pressures and elements present, to some extent and not in all cases, in eating disorders and self-mutilation, it is misleading to imply, as this construction does, that bullying is somehow a characteristic or condition that stems primarily from the nature of the targeted child (and especially from some physical characteristic responsive to cosmetic surgery). You may have a different opinion, of course. Here is the article.
Teen cosmetic surgery
1/13/09: Cyberbullying Report
A NY Times article summarizing a report about to issued from a Harvard-led national task force on cyberbullying makes the point (as Nancy Willard and other experts have made before) that the threat of sexual predation on-line and on social networking sites specifically is more limited than is typically believed (though any incident is of concern, of course), but that cyberbullying (peer harassment, including on a sexual basis) is the much more common threat. This finding seems consistent with the small number of good studies previously done. Here is the article.
Task Force Report 1-09
10/7/08: NEW GLSEN CAMPAIGN:
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), which has a national as well as NJ organizational structure, is doing some of the most important, and leading, work on bullying. What makes their work so impressive is not only the quality but the range: they do it all: research, public education, legislative advocacy and specific school-based programming projects. Their latest effort targets an important aspect of the school (and community) environment - the use of the term 'gay' as a casual, negative descriptor for all types of things. Here's the NY Times article about the new initiative:
8/21/08: New 'News' items:
1. An editorial in the NY Times two weeks ago (? date) about juvenile justice conditions in Texas. The trigger for the editorial is release of a report on Texas Youth Commission facilities which notes the lack of appropriate education and care for incarcerated youth. This is especially so because of the large number of youth who have special learning needs and "emotional disturbance" and who not only receive very poor treatment in these facilities but arguably ended up in these facilities in large part because of poor services at their local schools, ending with being "dumped" (the editorial says) out of those schools and "onto streets," with their final destination being youth facilities. What struck me about this editorial is having read this year the previous news reports of conditions in the Texas system, which eloquently and clearly described the rampant violence (much of it bullying) occurring in this system, both in terms of harsh treatment by peers and harsh treatment by staff. This series of reports - and the reality of child life in that system - is a classic example of treatment of children which is bullying but not labeled as such, and additionally highlights the importance of providing adequate support of children in need. These issues ought to be - and are - concerns for all those concerned about childhood bullying. There is a thin (if non-existent) line between harsh treatment of children in our insitutions generally and a more narrow focus on "bullying in schools." One wonders how children are treated in NJ's youth facilities - much better one assumes, but it's worth thinking about.
2. For those of us awaiting the start of work by the NJ Commission on Bullying in Schools, it was very interesting to note the passage and signing by Gov. Corzine of recent health care reform laws. The laws (according to an 8/9 article in the Star Ledger and an acompanying editorial) "put into practice several key recommendaitons made by the NJ Commission on Rationalizing Health Care Resources." One bill creates "an early warning system" which allows the NJ Dept of Health and Sr Services to monitor the financial health of the state's hospitals and "take action before a crisis strikes." Another law creates a special fund ($44 million) to provide "support and a mechanism" for working with hospitals to address service problems. Another law requires psychiatric hospitals to conduct public meetings for the communities served. Another law requires hospital board members to undergo extensive training in their "roles and responsibilities." What's of interest about these laws, from an anti-bullying advocate perspective, is not of course anything about hospitals. It's the way in which one can easily see how such approaches would be helpful in addressing bullying. It would be interesting if - analogously - we had law which:
- further empowered the State Department of Education (e.g.,) to monitor each school district/school to identify the status of anti-bullying and student-support efforts "before a crisis strikes."
- created a special fund to provide "support and a mechanism" for work with schools to address bullying problems.
- required public meetings or reports to communities on the status of anti-bullying and student support efforts by schools.
- and required school board members to have intensive and specific education about bullying and peer violence. etc. etc.
And of course it's not without interest or importance that these laws flowed from the work of a state Commission!
7/21/08: Children 'Overestimate' Bullying?
A recent Star Ledger story reported on a recently published survey which had as one of its findings that while NJ children thought more than 3/4 of all children in their schools were involved in bullying, 'only' 20% or so (if I recall) actually were (directly involved in bullying). So the headline noted this 'overestimation' or apparent excess of fear about bullying. (I'll post the articles themselves, including the study, when I can.) I was called by a reporter to comment. Here is the (email query and response):
Dear Mr. Green,
I'm a reporter for The Star-Ledger and I'm working on a piece about a new survey of perceptions of bullying by New Jersey middle school students. The survey found that the kids overestimated the prevalence of bullying in their schools. While they reported they did not engage in bullying they estimated that it happens frequently in the schools by someone else. The authors feel that, A, this could lead to more bullying or reluctance to intervene because kids think it happens so frequently, and B, that school should recast their message indicate most kids are against bullying and peer pressure can be exerted against bullies, and C, that the anti bullying messages themselves might be responsible for kids overestimating bullying in school.
Here is my response:
I haven't seen the survey yet so I can't judge its accuracy, but let's assume it's good data (surveys commonly are not good data, but ... ):
This one survey would not be consistent with most or all previous evidence (mostly survey data, admittedly), of which I'm aware. That either means most or all of the previous data was not accurate, or that the current survey is not accurate, or that something important has changed.
- It's unlikely tho still possible that most or all of the previous data was (collectively) not accurate.
- In terms of the accuracy of the current survey, the issue is what is the basis for comparison? That is, the rate at which kids report bullying occurs (in the present survey) is obviously being compared to something else (e.g., a more accurate report about the rate at which bullying is actually occurring). I'm not aware that we have any good data, in NJ or anywhere else, about the actual rate at which bullying is occurring (and such reports themselves depend on how bullying is defined, who's conducting the data, whether the data collection is anonymous or not, etc. etc.). So what is the idea of kids over-estimating bullying based on (what comparison)? From what you wrote, it seems as if the rate at which kids report bullying occurring is being matched against kids' report of how much/often they themselves engage in bullying. If that's all the comparison is, it's not much to report. Kids are of course likely to respond no (or to minimize) if asked if and how much they themselves bully. It's not even clear that kids will report accurately how much they are bullied. Again, it depends on how the data is collected, the questions are formulated, etc. etc.
- If something important has changed (i.e., kids now perceive and/or report more bullying than is actually occurring), what could have happened?
- Well, it's possible that bullying has become such a media focus and parent/community concern at present, that the perception of bullying occurring (by kids or anyone else) has now exceeded the actual rate (assuming we know it) at which bullying occurs in school. But even if this is so, it does not mean anything especially good for the lives of those kids in the school who are being bullied. Schools generally are not yet systematically and adequately taking such great care of kids being bullied, nor especially systematic or effective steps to prevent that bullying from occurring. Nor are schools currently over-committing resources to bullying, nor over-focusing on it (in their actions). So it's not as if - based on this survey, e.g. - schools can now cut back on something they weren't doing enough of in the first place. In other words, I don't see much reason to stop pursuing the goal of having schools effectively address bullying because of this report.
- However, there is one important implication of such a result (the survey), worth thinking about. We know, from some recent research done on problematic alcohol use in college, that the perception by college students that "everyone" (peers) drinks can apparently be a factor which leads some students to drink more or more often than they otherwise would have. As I'm sure you know, this is complicated research, needs a lot of replication and may or may not be actually true, as many have pointed out. But anyway, based on some findings that suggest this may be true (more drinking if college students think 'everyone drinks'), some have suggested that college campaigns to decrease drinking remind students that most college students don't drink or get into trouble with alcohol (e.g., binge drink). It remains to be seen, as far as I know, whether such new campaigns, with this slant, actually decrease college student drinking. Anyway, if the middle school situation is similar (may or may not be), it might be good to remind students that most kids don't bully (and certainly not hype how common bullying is.
That's a reasonable suggestion. Nancy Willard, who writes extensively about cyberbullying and internet safety, has, for example, pointed out that there's a lot of hype around the danger of the internet for kids, though this is not to say there aren't some real risks and dangerous situations which do occur. I agree w her about this. It may also be true about bullyinjg.
- But so what? The big danger today is not that we overhype or overestimate bullying. The real, actual danger - which currently exists in all schools of which I'm aware - is that we do not do enough to prevent and address bullying (at whatever rate it occurs) and do not do anywhere near enough to adequately protect and support vulnerable kids.
Director, NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention
6/27/08: News about Bullying (That Doesn't Speak Its Name) ...
Every day in newspapers across the land stories appear which are about bullying - but the reading public would never know it. That's because the word "bullying" doesn't appear in the headline - or anywhere else in the story! Therapists often use the concept of "the elephant in the room" to refer to issues of which everyone in a family is aware (e.g., substance use problems) but no one wants to openly acknowledge. That would make bullying an "invisible elephant." That is, the issue is present and central but no one sees it as such. Examples abound. For example, in the New York Times, there are bullying-related stories almost daily - but since the word bullying isn't used, it would be easy to miss. For example, a story the in the Times the other day was about school programs for gifted/talented children. The story described disparities in how children were being admitted to such programs. From an anti-bullying advocate's point of view (mine, in this case), the bullying-related issue was obvious (but not raised in the story): Here's a letter sent to the Times about it:
To the Editor:
Disparities in "gifted and talented" program admission are inevitable ("Gifted Programs in the City are Less Diverse" 6/19/08). In addition to limited access, the existence of these programs in schools inherently mischaracterizes and minimizes the needs of students not labeled gifted and talented. Schools with gifted and talented programs implicitly divide students into three groups: gifted/talented, special needs and those in the middle range. But only those designated gifted and talented receive consistently positive special attention and opportunities. In fact, all students are gifted and talented in various ways - if one doubts this, ask a child's parent. And every student needs "extra" or "special" support to maximize those gifts, at whatever level. Schools are capable of providing positive support and enhanced opportunities to every student and should be held responsible for doing so. Instead, students not perceived as gifted or talented often stand in the shadows in their own school.
Director, NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention
While some may disagree with the specific point of view (in this case, questioning the existence of gifted/talented programs in a system which does not provide equal enrichment for all students), this is an issue we ought to address.
Another example was in the Times Metro Section (B1) on 6/25. The headline was: "Holding Back Young Students: Is Program a Gift or Stima?" The article describes a program in the East Ramapo school district in which 12% of its first graders are held back to repeat the grade, but with enhanced support and teaching. As you'd expect from the comment on gifted/talented programs, we're in favor of enhanced support and teaching (for all students). In fact, most of what the article describes, from the point of view of parents and children, as well as teachers and administrators, is positive outcomes of the program. But being held back, as the article describes, also brings "stigma." Just to be clear, the stigma essentially consists of other students "picking on" the student held back (though there is also an issue of the student's self-perception). The problem, from an anti-bullying perspective, is that the "stigma" issue is implicitly presented as if nothing could be done about it. There is no mention in the article of this easily anticipated and inevitable aspect of the (beneficial, as reported) program being addressed. That's what's wrong (assuming the article is accurate/complete). Anyone planning to implement such a 'held back' program (or any other program which targets specific groups of students for "special" services) needs to concurrently plan to address (and prevent) any stigmatizing (bullying) behavior on the part of other students. (This would be done in the usual recommended ways - see the rest of this site for a hundred pointers on how to do this).
More examples of "the invisible elephant" to be posted soon...
6/3/08: Cyberbullying and the death of a Missouri teen
Here's an article from E-School News about cyberbullying which does a very good job of reviewing some aspects of the issue, in the course of a story mainly about a girl's cyberbullying-related suicide and the way in which the girl's mother has found great meaning in working to address the issue. The death of Megan Meier of Missouri has become another of the tragedies which draw attention to bullying and unfortunately one of the only type of event that ultimately creates a change in societal attitudes and actions. Her situation had the unique aspect of an adult apparently being the person targeting the girl (in this case by creating a false persona of an adolescent boy on a social networking site and using that to attract and then harass and verbally assault the girl). The article benefits from comments by Nancy Willard, who has become (in the view of many) the country's leading advocate and expert (as a lawyer) on cyberbullying. The quality of her comments is very strong, including her understanding that some of the talk and outreach to kids about cyberbullying can indeed be - as she calls it - "fearmongering" and not helpful. Here's the article:
ESchool News cyberbullying article
5/22/08: Confiscating Cell Phones
Here is an article about a junior high school in Santa Fe which has confiscated "dozens" of cell phones in order to limit distribution of nude photographs of two students. The students had reportedly sent the photos to friends, who then sent it to others. In that sense, it is not the typical cyber-bullying scenario, in which such a photo is snapped without the target's knowledge (e.g., in a locker room) and then distributed. But the actions are certainly harmful in exactly the ways typical of cyberbullying, even ways of which the girls might not be aware (e.g., as the article points out, the possibility that the photos end up on the internet and even more widely - and lastingly - distributed). The most significant part of the story is the school's action. Despite concerns about privacy and property, the school felt (rightly) empowered to seize the phones. This act, which appropriately recognizes the school's responsibility to protect the girls, is to be applauded and hopefully will encourage other schools to take such actions and not be limited by the perceived liability or sense of incursion which schools sometimes cite to justify not taking necessary actions.
Santa Fe cell phones seized
5/19/08: A story which came across on Google News this morning (attached, below) is about the new Boy Scout Handbook, which (according to the report) now discusses bullying and requires Boy Scouts to learn how to address it. While every movement in this direction (addressing bullying) is to be applauded, and is also an indicator of the continuing positive societal understanding of the importance of the problem, this particular development is complicated. Gender identity and expression is perhaps the most common of all of the characteristics which are targeted for bullying/harassment. Not only addressing incidents of bullying when they occur but preventing bullying from occurring is the ideal orientation to the issue. Perhaps the most critical component of preventing bullying is very actively increasing support for those children we know are likely to be targeted. How does the Boys Scouts, as an organization, do this effectively, given its history and continuing practice regarding acceptance and support for all gender identity and expression? I'm sure Boy Scout leaders struggle with this issue, but it would be of great interest to hear a conversation about this which involved the leaders of the organization.
Boys Scouts address bullying
5/9/08: Bullying as Child Abuse
The concept of bullying as a form of child abuse (or, more specifically, but no less serious, neglect) is logical, implicitly. Bullying is significant harm which occurs to children who are in the care of adults with caregiving and supervisory responsibility ('in loco parentis', if I have the Latin correct, as the school's responsibility is sometimes described by courts), and since most bullying is a function of the environments those adults create and maintain, the caregiving adults are responsible for addressing it. When bullying occurs, it can therefore be seen as a form of - at least - neglect. But it is still uncommon to see bullying referred to a child abuse in anti-bullying efforts and media coverage. That's why the attached (see below) article about an effort in England is notable.
England anti-bullying effort 5-08
4/28/08: A Bullied Soldier's Lawsuit
Yesterday's NY Times contained a good example of how many news stories each day are essentially about bullying, but the word 'bullying' is never used. (There were several examples in yesterday's Times, actually, but I'll just focus on one.) The story was about a solider (now at Fort Riley but in Iraq in 2005 and again in 2006-07) suing the army because of harsh treatment and threats he experienced after declaring his atheism. As the article makes clear, the behavior of officers (those in charge) was critical (as it always is, in bullying). The article also served to remind me (if I needed any) of the courage of those who are bullied, the strength it takes to bear up under it, let alone pursue and end to it, and justice. Here's the article:
Solider Sues Army
4/18/08: Day of Silence
Bullying which targets gender identity and expression (always as perceived by those who bully) is, some reports suggest, the most common and vicious type. On the occasion (next week April 25th) of a national Day of Silence which highlights the problem of violence toward and negative treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth in the schools, a columnist in the Florida Sun-Sentinel does an excellent job of describing and reviewing the issue.
Day of Silence article
4/17/08: Bullying and Food Allergies!
ABC news did an interesting piece on bullying which involves children with food allergies. The article refers to the link (bullying w food allergies as the targeted characteristic) as well known (in the food allergy community). It makes perfect sense that this would be the case - adding food allergies to the almost endless list of characteristics which have been targeted - but I've not come across articles to that effect in the scientific literature as yet (I've missed them, I assume). The ABC article is very well done - covers the issue, provides some info re both common problems (bullying, and food allergies), gives the bullied children's perspectives and even notes the protective importance of friends. Here's the article:
Bullying and food allergies
4/10/08: Lakeland Cyberbullying on Video
There is, understandably, a lot of media coverage of a current example of youth violence. The violence is presumably bullying, involving as it does, many against one, a relationship (the kids involved know each other), and there is likely to be a history of negative acts. It would also be likely if some - if not all - attend the same Lakeland, FL school. The perpetrators and victim of the violence are girls, which is not uncommon, though 'relational aggression' (rather than hitting) is the more common form of girl:girl bullying. And the bullying here is a so-far less common (but apparently growing) form in which the violence has an online (or cyberspace) aspect: the girls who beat the victim and videotaped the beating were reportedly doing so with the intent of posting the video on sites such as YouTube and MySpace. That act would consitute "cyberbullying." As the article describes, one issue is how responsible such web businesses should be in addressing cyberbullying (and violent video material generally). In our view, the usual hesitation to encourage "censorship," - which is always the argument raised - does not apply; this isn't a case of self-expression, however creative the means - this is a case of assault. The owners of such sites should be held just as responsible for violence committed against youth using their sites as the weapon, or means of attack, as schools should be held responsible for the reasonably preventable violence which occurs between their students. See what you think:
article re video of beating
4/10/08: The Data Problem
Today's editorial in the NJ Star Ledger about inflated graduation rates, while not specifically about bullying, is strongly relevant. The well-written article neatly captures the difficulty social reforms face when accurate data is unavailable (usually because the data is distorted or hidden, albeit legally in most cases, in order to protect a powerful interest and image (the apparent success of NJ schools and teachers, in this case), This is a huge and core issue for the attempt we all are making to adequately address school bullying. A system which identifies bullying incidents within and across all public schools, with reasonable validity and accuracy, must be developed.
NJSL editorial re graduation rates
4/10/08: A Sexual Assault in School
See the article (inserted below) in today's Star Ledger about a school district having settled a case involving the sexual assault of an 11 year old girl by an 8th grade boy in a middle school. Notable in addition to the tragedy of the assault is that the family expects changes in school district behavior in addition to the money. The changes, according to the article, which takes its points from the family's lawyer, are that the district must report all violent incidents to the state (and claims this has not been done to this point), that hall pass and sign-out sheet policies must be enforced (which implies this wasn't happening enough before). The lawyer is quoted as saying that if the case had moved forward he would have shown "numerous, prior violent incidents" in the school hallways, and that: "There was only one hall monitor to supervise 384 kids." While it's not clear how many monitors are ideally needed for that number of students (the article cites 'two' as a better number), and the school's perspective is not reported, there are still important points here, which anti-bullying advocates well recognize: Supervision of school areas must be adequate, and - as the lawyer states - schools are indeed responsible for protecting children from reasonably foreseeable dangers. Sexual assault is one of those dangers, bullying incidents generally (which may include sexual assault) is similarly a foreseeable danger.
NJSL article 4-10-08 - school district settlement
4/4/08: An Arkansas Article 'Deconstructed'
Here is an article from an Arkansas newspaper about the situation in Fayettesville to which the item below refers. In the attachment here, the article has been 'deconstructed' (comments inserted into the text).
Newspaper article about bullying, w comments
3/26/08: A Times Article (Arkansas Again) and Letters
Here is a front page NY Times article about bullying (specifically about a child in Arkansas) and letters published in response to the article, including one I wrote. It's very significant when the Times (or other major media) puts a bullying-related story, identified as such, on the front page. It's even better when, as in this case, the writer (Dan Barry) takes a sophisticated, supportive approach to the story. And it's even more significant, I think, when every letter published, "gets it," in terms of bullying, clearly supporting the bullied child and clearly placing responsibility for the child's situation on adults, including (and especially) the school the children involved attend. Unfortunately, one of the letter writers placed some blame on the parents. The writer's frustration with the child's continuing suffering is understandable, and taking a child out of a school in which they're repeatedly assaulted is definitely a recommended strategy, usually as a last resort. But the bullying of their child is a very difficult situation for parents as well, and there are many reasons a parent may not remove their child from the school, including economics and other available resources. However, all of the writers, no exception, take a strong, supportive attitude toward the child and have a sophisticated, evidence-based understanding of bullying. This has not always been the case - in fact it's the first time I've seen such a consistently helpful response in major media. Is a positive culture change in regard to bullying finally occurring? Anyway, see for yourself. Here is the article and the letters.
letters 3-26-08 NY Times Arkansas article NY Times 3-25-08
3/20/08: School Drop-Outs
This may be a stretch, but ... It seems important to take note of a front page article in the Times (3/20/08) which suggests that the average percentage of students who finish high school in the U.S. is only 70% and significantly lower in some areas (higher in others also, of course). This is an abysmal track record. From an anti-bullying advocacy point of view, the implicit issue is the extent to which schools are taking care of all of their students. It is not much of a stretch - in terms of what we know about human psychology and functioning - to suggest that the extent to which students feel they belong, are cared about, attended to, included and feel safe in school is likely to be a major (the major, really) factor in whether a student stays in school and obtains their degree. This is another one of those articles which does not contain a single specific mention of the word 'bullying', but is arguably about it anyway. Read between the lines and see for yourself:
school drop-outs, NY Times
2/14/08: Cyberbullying Update
See 'Legal Issues' page (this site) for an update on cyberbullying law developments, including in NJ. As the material describes, NJ's cyberbullying law (in effect 8/07) provides a basis for school districts to address cyberbullying that "substantially interferes" with school functioning, even if the cyberbullying occurs off-campus. Some NJ districts are hesitant to address such off-site bullying. We consider addressing off-site bullying as a matter-of-fact responsibility of schools and school districts. It would certainly be obvious to any parents of bullied children, and the children themselves, that off-campus bullying should be addressed, cyber- or otherwise. Most 'off-site' bullying, even in cyberspace, occurs in school building-based relationships, between students at the same school or in the same district, though many others (especially in cyberbullying) may be involved. The bullying substantially impacts student functioning in the school. It should be addressed by the school. Anyway, for a good discussion, see the article, which comes from National School Boards Association Legal Clips.
1/8/08: A Commission Established!
An important step forward in NJ's efforts to address bullying! (see below) We're extremely grateful to the legislators and organization whose hard work and inspiring commitment created this new effort. Depending on how the new Commission is constituted, much progress on bullying can come from this law. (More details to follow).
January 8, 2008
Now on the Governor’s Desk --
Among the measures approved by the Senate and Assembly:
BIAS CRIMES AND BULLYING CRIMES motivated by national origin or the victim’s gender identity, which includes transsexuals, would be considered bias crimes. The bill would also establish a state commission that would study how to make antibullying laws more effective.
A good NY Times article about cyberbullying, spurred by a group of new studies in the Journal of Adolescent Health. (see Research page, this site, for link to the journal, which was provided by the Times)
NY Times 11-07 Cyberbullying article
3/07: LW Wins Again!
There's been lots of news but no time or sufficient staffing to update this page. The BIG news in 07 is the unanimous (positive) NJ Supreme Court decision in the LW case - for details see the News and Events page.
4/06: A Wrongful Conviction in CT
Update on the important CT case in which a mother was wrongfully convicted of contributing to the suicide of her severely bullied child (while the school system's responsibility for addressing the bullying was ignored):
12/05: LW Wins!
(1) The biggest news this month is the NJ Appellate Division decision in the LW case (see Legal Issues page)! Everything else pales in comparison, though implications of LW decision in practice remain to be seen.
(2) Small item: Today's NY Times 12-11-05 has an article (see link, below) reporting on a new study of pre-adolescent girls and bullying. If the article describes the study accurately (study will be posted here), the study basically finds that girls as young as four are actively bullying (relational aggression for girls, physical aggression for boys, the article notes). The problem with the Times article (and the study investigators they quote) is that they (inaccurately) attribute the bullying to the girls' families parenting styles. This is typical parent-blaming and a good example of the fundamental attributional error (attributing causation to individual pathology - in this case the parent's - as opposed to environmental factors - in this case, the quality of the school/social setting and the degree to which adults in charge of those settings address and prevent bullying behavior). Anyway, the article's worth reading: bullying in pre-adolesc. girls: NY Times article
Posting more items is overdue, but there simply hasn't been time to update. Notable developments in the past few months have included:
(1) A continuing escalation (!) of parent-filed lawsuits, including in NJ, and including (nationally, not in NJ) some settlements and awards (stories to be posted here);
(2) The trial in a lawsuit filed by a prison inmate accusing prison guards and administration of responsiblity for his sexual enslavement (a bullying situation, as well as sexual assault, because it clearly meets the core characteristics: negative acts by peers, imbalance of power, and a social institution in which the authorities don't adequately protect those under their care), unfortunately ending in the jury's acquital of those responsible - but the case is still a landmark because it was the first to go this far, and there will inevitably be others ...
Inmate Was Considered 'Property' of Gang, Witness Tells Jury in Prison Rape Lawsuit - New York Times
(3) A continuing cascade of published studies, even since 7/05 note, below, which notably includes a study showing that rates of adolescent depression vary according to which school students attend (!) - it's unlikely such a study would even have been conducted without the bullying-related research having established that chacacteristics of schools are actually responsible for behavior - bullying - previously considered to be completely the individual pathology/character/etc. of the students. Stories and articles will be posted.
(4) Media interest in and coverage of bullying continues to improve in terms of both frequency and quality. A recent excellent example is a community meeting about bullying convened by the NJ Courier-Post and then reported in the paper (article linked to below is from the Courier-Post website).
Courier-Post article 9-05
Another example was a recent special on PBS, produced in cooperation with the HRSA national campaign.
PBS program 9-05
7/05: Bullying and ... school performance, employment, weight, competition ...
Here are recent publications from the academic literature. The first is yet another study about bullying's negative effects on school performance (London). The evidence continues to build that paying attention to childhood bullying is critical for learning and academic achievement.
bullying and school performance
The second study is about bullying's long-term (to adulthood) negative impact on employment (Finland).Studying the adult implications of childhood bullying is still uncommon and much needed: we may learn that much of concern in adult life has its origins in exposure to childhood bullying.
bullying and unemployment
Here is also a recent letter published in NY Times about bullying and obesity concerns in children:
7-05 NY Times letter re weight
Last, here's a very good essay from American School Boards Journal about problems with the competitive methods currently predominant in virtually all U.S. schools. As Aronson has described (in 'No Child Left to Hate' - see Resources page), there is a strong connection between teaching approaches and school culture and child relationships: In essence, Aronson suggests, collaborative (as opposed to competitive) learning methods help curb bullying with no loss in academic performance. In terms of non-academic areas (e.g., athletics), the common overemphasis on competitive performance is especially toxic.
5/05: Bullying and school performance ...
NY Times (5/26/05) publishes an article about NYC public school students' deteriorating standardized test scores from 4th to 8th grade. What's most noteworthy about the article is that not one of the school authorities trying hard to unravel the 'test score mystery' so much as mentions the obvious (to an anti-bullying advocate) fact that the grades between 4th and 8th are the peak period for bullying. And we already know (some studies) that (inadequately addressed) bullying in schools negatively affects student learning and performance. But no one quoted in the article even imagines a connection!! Here's a letter sent to the NY Times lamenting that fact ... Letter NY Times 5-26-05
New! Media coverage of cyberbullying continues to escalate. Here's 2 recent articles in one NJ paper:
cyberbullying article 5-4-05 NJ CourierPost
cyberbullying article 4-22-05 NJ CourierPost
New! School buses finally noticed (by the media) as a common site for bullying! Here is a very good Christian Science Monitor story (4-19-05) about the topic:
School bus story - CSM 4-05
New article on bullying efforts in NJ, in MetroKids:
New posting: re No Name-Calling Week (article from Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 2-20-05), good discussion of value and barriers to implementation of this important program, provided by GLSEN (nationally).
No Name Calling Week article
4/9/05: Bullying and tv-watching linked: but wait ...
There's been a lot of national mention about a study which just appeared in the academic journal Child Development. The media coverage universally gives the impression that bullying in school (and specifically the behavior of those who bully) occurs because of the early (through age 4) home environment, and specifically (the headlines) the amount of tv watching allowed in the home: the more tv, the more bullying. This is misleading. First, the study has some flaws (as all studies do, including individual ones we cite to support the whole school model of bullying prevention. In the case, the study did not use - as the authors acknowledge - a definition of bullying which included imbalance of power as one of the two key elements. Mothers of children self-reported the extent of bullying, a problematic method. And there were some other issues. But even if the study findings were completely valid , the issue is that children's problems and dispositions to behave certain ways are only the starting point for what occurs (and especially continues to occur) in schools. That is, the school environment (as created and managed by the adults in charge) is the primary determinant of what occurs between children. That is, as much evidence (including the positive results of school-based bullying prevention models) suggests, a child who is inclined to bully, for whatever reason (and home environment may certainly be one factor for some children), will do so or not to the extent the school environment ('school culture', as it sometimes called) is conducive to the behavior (ignoring it, inadequately addressing it, subtly encouraging it through over-emphasizing sports and victories, under-supporting isolated or non-athletically-inclined children, etc. etc.) The Child Development study is attached, here, so you can read it for yourself, rather than only relying on the (in this case, as is not uncommon) somewhat distorted media takes on the study. Child Development study 4/05
4/1/05: A syndicated psychologist's advice: helpful and a bit less so ....
Today's Google Alert included an item from a Mississippi newspaper (Sun-Herald) in which a parent wrote in to a psychologist's (John Rosemund, of Indiana) syndicated column to say that her 10 y.o. son was being bullied by several other kids at a school. She wrote that when they (parent and child) went to the school counselor - the child crying - the counselor critiqued the crying, suggested the boy deal with his anger by punching a pillow (there in the office), and then suggested 'come-backs' he could use to the bullying boys. Here is the psychologist's reply: (read it first, then I'll comment below ... )
Answer: I think the counselor's approach was completely inappropriate and irresponsible. In the first place, being bullied is not "just part of life" anymore than is getting mugged. In the second place, giving your son a pillow to punch implies that his anger at being bullied is part of the problem, which it is not. Furthermore, if your son takes her advice and engages the bullies in verbal one-upmanship, the problem is likely to worsen. A school counselor should have enough experience in this area to know that bullies feed off any response at all from their victims. A child who is the target of bullies should never, ever have to take responsibility for ending the bullying. Just as adults can call and rely upon police when their personal safety is threatened, children in similar circumstances should know they can rely upon adult authority figures to protect them.
Unfortunately, many principals and counselors are afraid to discipline bullies because parents of bullies are notorious for being highly defensive enablers of their little homegrown criminals. Sometimes, school authorities will attempt to "spread the blame around" by suggesting, for example, that the victim must be antagonizing the bully or bullies. The fact is, nothing justifies bullying, especially when it is physical. Nonetheless, it's much easier for a school to treat the victim as the problem or act as if the victim can take care of the problem. Many schools now conduct anti-bullying programs, which are fine in theory.
When a bully is identified, however, these same schools often go no further than attempting to counsel him (another way of avoiding the potentially messy measure of trying to discipline him). The problem is that counseling and traditional therapy tend to have no effect on sociopaths, which bullies most definitely are.
Under the circumstances, you have three options (which I'll offer in no particular order):
First, find another school for your child or, if it's feasible, consider home-schooling.
Second, the next time your son is physically bullied, press charges against the child in question. Premeditated assault is a crime, even if the perpetrator is 10 years old, and the juvenile justice system exists to deal with children who are engaging in criminal activity.
Third, go to the principal and explain what happened when your son tried to get help from the counselor. There's a good chance he will take a more active approach. If, however, he balks at doing something assertive about the problem, I encourage you to look him in the eye and say something along the following lines: "As the principal of this school, it is your responsibility to provide a safe environment for my child while he is in your care. If you feel unable to do so, then perhaps I need to see what legal recourse our family has in a situation of this sort." It shouldn't come to that, but if it does, that should sit him up straight.
The psychologist's reply has many good points, and reflects the growing public and professional understanding of the nature of bullying. For instance, it's good to see bullying characterized as mugging (which it is), the understanding that the boy (and either his vulnerability or anger) did not cause the bullying, and that consequences for the bullying child/ren are important.
Less accurate (and helpful) is the depiction of the bullying children as sociopaths (a diagnostic term used to describe people with very impaired or absent empathy/conscience). This is a myth about bullying children, which studies have not supported. Children who bully are not generally doing so because of psychological problems or impairment but because they are in environments (schools, most commonly) in which bullying is inadequately addressed by - and/or modeled by - adults. Even children with impairments of a kind which might lead them to bully others will bully less in social environments with adequate adult attention to bullying.
In terms of advice, the psychologist's reply is interesting, reflecting a good - and welcome - understanding of the importance of bullying as a trauma for bullied children and the need to urgently address it. But he reverses the ideal order of the attempted solutions, suggesting first that the parent and child leave the school and last that the parent discuss the problem with the principal. (See "Anti-Bullying Strategies for Parents" on Resources page.)
His advice to have the bullying child arrested is problematic. Most court systems, currently, do not understand the bullying problem well enough to have such strategies lead to effective solutions, and law enforcement and the courts are not capable of enough involvement in the school and its culture to ensure that all bullying - even of one particular child - is fully and enduringly addressed and that retaliation does not occur. Further, school systems are capable of addressing most bullying incidents effectively (though in most cases, currently, they are not yet doing so) and should be encouraged to do so.
Last, the psychologist's recommendation that the school be threatened with legal action reflects the continuing trend toward parents of bullied children suing schools. The threat may indeed help spur the school to action. However, as an actual strategy for bullied children, the law which
supports such suits is still very much in development, and legal outcomes (and lawyers expert enough to pursue them) are still very much developing, unresolved and uncertain as a solution. If the child has a legally sanctioned characteristic (gender, race, disability, e.g.) so that the bullying was bias-based, legal options may be more appropriate.
- Stuart Green
3/05: Red Lake letter to NY Times by Coalition member ...
The latest tragic school shooting in Minnesota was aptly commented on in a NY Times letter by Coalition consultant Michael Greene:
March 27, 2005
Lessons of Red Lake and Columbine
To the Editor:
Re: "Behind the Why of a Rampage, Loner With a Taste for Nazism" (front page, March 23):
The lessons learned from Columbine and subsequent investigations could have prevented the shooting in Red Lake, Minn. The students involved in these shootings typically obtain the gun of a relative or friend. They often tell peers, but not adults, about their intentions, and they are usually teased or bullied at school.
These common elements suggest remedies: strict and enforceable laws on storing guns, the creation of a school climate in which young people know that they can talk to someone on the school staff about any concerns, and an atmosphere in which bullying and harassment are viewed as human rights violations.
Michael B. Greene
East Orange, N.J., March 23, 2005
The writer is the director of the Center for the Prevention of Violence at the Youth Consultation Service.
3/05: Autism coverage and a Coalition letter to NY Times ...
In its continuing coverage of autism, the NY Times, during 3/05, carried a series of articles on the difficulties children with autism have in their social relations with other children in school. As always, though not labeled as a story about 'bullying', the issue was at the heart of the articles. We (Coalition) commented on the issue in a letter:
March 5, 2005
The Autistic Child: Help and Heartbreak
To the Editor:
When a child with autism sits alone in a school lunchroom day after day, that child's intense suffering is an emergency that must be addressed. School administrators and staff members should expect and encourage other children to include and befriend the abandoned child.
In schools in which bullying awareness and prevention activities are a strong focus, children with autism can have a better day. This is a ''false hope'' at present for parents of autistic children only because there are still so few schools that recognize that the problem can be effectively tackled -- and then do so.
Summit, N.J., Feb. 27, 2005
The writer is director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention.
is a sample of news items which were received
from Google Alerts over the course of a
few days (as of 2/13/05), with comments
I added after each alert.
Bullying kills 16 children a year, claims
Wales - UK
AROUND 16 children in Britain kill themselves
each year due to bullying.
That is the claim of author Neil Marr in
his book Bullycide: Death at Playtime. ...
Comment: While the author is not a researcher and
the book's claim should not be considered
adequately supported, this new book is a
reminder of the likely link between being
bullied and suicide. A new Korean study
supports this association. In Europe (including
England), that link is so taken for granted
in the public mind, the term 'bullycide'
(as in this book's title) has been widely
used, for decades. It should also be remembered
that public awareness of bullying as a serious
problem, and the growing attention paid
to the problem by scientists has its origins
in suicides. For the world, that awareness
began in Norway: Olweus' pioneering work
on bullying was spurred by the suicide deaths
of 3 children within a short period of time
in the early 80's. For the U.S., the tragedy
of Columbine, on April 20th, 1999, in which
multiple murders (and injuries) were followed
by the suicide of the two young shooters.
State student dies during fraternity hazing
California Aggie Online - USA
... student, died Feb.
2 after he suffered severe water intoxication
out by a local fraternity, Chi Tau. As one
COUNTY 6 could face manslaughter charges
in hazing death
Francisco Chronicle - USA
... Butte County district
attorney may charge as many as six Chico
fraternity members with involuntary manslaughter
for their alleged role in a hazing ritual last ...
New York Times: Note front-page article on new
awareness of autistic spectrum disorders. It's a
good article about an important issue, and the
development the article describes is a welcome one:
more awareness of an important issue by those
affected, leading to less self-blame and more efforts
to improve their situation. Predictably, harsh
treatment of young people with these disorders is
described as a major issue by one of the parents
quoted in the article. But the word "bullying" is not used, and the reporter
does not highlight the issue in his approach to the
story. Therefore a search of the New York Times
archive using the search term 'bullying' would not
turn up this article, and most reading it would
presumably not see it as a bullying-related article.
But it is.
The HRSA national campaign
('Take a Stand, Lend a Hand, Stop Bullying Now') got off to a shaky
start with delays in obtaining information for
planning limiting sites and publicity for the 4/19
evening "kick-off." But the campaign has
resulted in a surge of national news coverage, which
The HRSA national campaign (Take a Stand, Lend
a Hand, Stop Bullying Now: www.stopbullyingnow.org)
is finally set to launch, March 1st . The primary
effect of the campaign will be increased media
coverage (National Association of Broadcasters is a
partner, for example), with a focus on the seriousness
and prevalence of bullying for "tweens" (8-
to 13-year-olds). But we can be hopeful that other key
messages (adult responsibility for addressing bullying
and availability of effective approaches) will also be
conveyed because the campaign's expert consultant is
Sue Limber, Ph.D., a leader of Olweus' U.S. team.
National news reports (e.g., search Google
sign up for Google "alerts" on bullying)
show a clear increase in reports of parents
of bullied children taking legal action against
schools for inadequately addressing bullying.
involving lawyers can have the negative effect of
increasing tensions between two groups (parents and
school leaders) who must work together on this issue.
It is understandable that desperate parents would turn
to lawyers for help, however, when they encounter some
school leaders who are not sufficiently responsive or
supportive, which unfortunately is still not uncommon.