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October 26th, 2010
12:09 PM ET

Teachers On Notice for Bullying

50% of students say they have bullied other kids.

47% of students say they've been the victim of bullying that seriously upset them.

And now teachers are on notice.  According to a 10-page letter sent to thousands of school districts and universities, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights wants to make sure that teachers and professors know that they could be held accountable for bullying under federal law.

To read the complete letter sent to teachers, click here.

To check out the latest survey done of teens on bullying from the Josephson Institute of Ethics, click here.


Filed under: Ali Velshi • Anchors • Chalk Talk
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Sharon

    Parents need to be held acountable for their children's behavior. Teachers have enough to deal with. No I'm not a teacher.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  2. Andre

    This is an important first step to stop this bullying epidemic. Each life lost by bullying-induced suicide is a life too many.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  3. David Ehrenstein

    Ali I trust you're aware that Christian "Fundamentalists" will object to this claiming it's "Homosexual Indoctrination" and an attack on "Religious Freedom."

    October 26, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  4. LaToyia

    So in order to be protected by bullying you have to be a gay or lesbian student? Now that is totally unfair. What about the students who are not gay or lesbian? So there not protected. There are going to be some lawsuits!

    October 26, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  5. Quanita Gage

    I think this is great that now there are laws being enforced about bullying and the schools are being held responsible. I am a mother of an eleven year old who has talked to me about being bullied, he is in middle school with sixth, seventh and eight graders. My issue lies in the fact that my son isn't always behaving as he should so when he does tell the teachers or other school administrators about the bullying because of his behavior it's hard for them to take it as seriously as they should. I am glad that now the law is being enforce should my personal situation climax. My heart goes out to the children who took their own lives as a result of the pressure being teased brings. No one should be made to feel less than human that is unacceptable.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  6. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    This is good for the class rooms but what about after they leave these kids are going to just be even more mad and do more harm the best thing to do is to separate the gay's from the none gay's .

    October 26, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  7. Cat

    I'm a school district administrator, former classroom teacher and mother to a 7th grader who puts up with bullying daily. The problem is not so much kids, it is adults who work in schools who do not respond when they see kids being bullied. We are no longer teachers of academic materials. If we want kids to have academic and social success, we have to realize that our roles are changing. We have to be Mom, Dad, Counselor and Teacher!!!!

    October 26, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  8. Wayne

    Something which I have never understood Bullying is typified by actions which IF committed by an adult would be considered Assault and battery, Why not just criminally prosecute school bully's? I think that a school bully and there parents would get the message that this was not going to be tolerated.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  9. Christina

    Teachers should be held accountable for their students being bullied! I was bullied for 2 years in Elementary School and no one did anything,not even the Principal! I think holding Teachers accountable will bring down the percentage of bullying and make all these irresponsible teachers react to this unexceptable behavior.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  10. Elizabeth

    It is about time for something like this. My kids are young, yet the amount of bullying I see going on is ridiculous. I don't get where it is coming from, or why it is so prevalent. I know everything starts at home and parents are responsible first and foremost, but I can't believe the way teachers and school administrators are accepting bad behavior and brushing it off. 80% of the kids I see at our school are rotten and mean to each other. On the flip side. We had a couple of smaller fifth grade boys get bullied by three fifth grade girls and nothing was done but a slap on the hand. They pushed these boys down, dragged them through mud, kicked them in the face. Called one of the boys Gay and nothing was done. They were talked to, but that is it. I was appalled when I saw them walking out of school the next day. If we would have done that at school we woukd have been suspended and severely disciplined at home. Can you imagine if three boys did this to two girl?

    October 26, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  11. Lynn Petersen

    Department of Education..Kudos! I'm a retired teacher who had a peer helper group which dealt with bullying and many other student problems BUT an adminstrator took our money away and used it for his 'pet' projects. All I can say is Keep Our Schools Safe and ENFORCE your document.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  12. Yvonne

    Finally! The adults that are suppose to be supervising our children are being held accountable....not only for other children's actions but the teacher's themselves. There has to be zero tolerance. No excuses that it was only a joke, they didn't mean it, it was taken the wrong way. Enough! Just Don't Do it! Don't say it, don't act on it, don't write/text/vmail/email it. Period. It's time the teachers acted like responsible, role model setting adults and less like a buddy, friend to the students.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  13. Dan in TN

    Good...I've always thought we had enough laws...just didn't enforce enough of them. But, I also believe bullying is a personal crime. It occurs between two opposing individuals. It can only be resolved between those two individuals. If the solution comes from someone other than the oppressed, the oppression will return. Victims must recognize their own value and learn to stand up for themselves. That does not excuse those that bully others. It does recognize that there will always...always...be another bully in life.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  14. Sadie

    When I was in middle school my closest friends and I were surrounded by our fellow students, screamed at, hit with rocks and sticks, and told to "go die." We told our school counselor whom we showed our diaries, in order to show her our feelings, who then told our principal that we were "disturbed" children. The Principal read our diaries aloud and threatened to call our parents and tell them we were disturbed and read them our private thoughts. We NEVER complained to ANYONE at our school about the bullying which, over the years grew steadily worse. I hope that this letter will prevent teachers/administrators from ignoring the plight of children for the sake of the jocks who participate in their sports programs and what happened to myself will never happen to anyone else.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  15. Melissa

    This is truly one of my lifetime pet-peeves. After years and years of bullying in schools it still gets tacit approval by school personnel who continue to look the other way. I know from personal experience that it doesn't take a whole lot of bullying to create a lifetime of bad memories and self doubt for the victim. I back any and all efforts to STOP this behavior immediately and cast the perpetrator as the odd man out. The schools should, at least, be held responsible for the professional counseling it takes to help both bully and victim get their lives back on track. We, as a nation, should settle for nothing less and the old boys network of "laughing it off" should send them to counselors for their disgusting attitude, alone. The gay lesbian issue makes this so painful but it's painful for anyone who has suffered this unnecessary abuse. You have definitely pushed my anger button.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  16. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Most kids dont get bullied in the class room they get bullied after school so do you draw names from a hat who you blame .

    October 26, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  17. Jay George

    Hi Ali.

    I believe being bullied is a very big deal in our schools and should have been delt with properly a long time ago... 15 years ago there were days i didn't want to go to school. Many of my days were spent in the principals office for defending myself. Now hearing that laws will be in place to stop or slow bullying, puts a little more ease on me having to worry about my own son going to school soon. And I think if i wasn't so concerned about going to school and getting bullied, I could have had a proper education. and a normal life there after. Maybe our next generation might finally have a chance. If what is proposed works, this could be a great step in helping the youth. And will most likely get rid of alot more violance in schools.

    Thank you for the time.

    Jay, New Jersey

    October 26, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  18. Andersen Jones

    Hi Ali,

    I was just watching your last comments about kids and bullying. I noticed that you made a statement about teachers being responsible for a someone else's actions, and gay and lesbian kids will now be protected from bullying. My question is, when you say gay and lesbian kids, are you meaning children or are you saying students in general? However, if you were talking about children, do you think that our nation is accepting gay and lesbian relationships within our youth?

    October 26, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  19. Lorraine Holford

    I have taught for over 30 yrs. I have on several occassions reported bullying, harrassment, and even rape by students. Reporting this to administration was a waste of time. Nothing was done to correct bad behavior . No counseling programs were established to address behavior. It was horrible. Students were left to fend for themselves. This created more suspensions which affected ADA. More important was the time wasted to process suspensions and the disruption it caused in the classroom. Teacher's became highly paid baby sitters. You can't hold teacher's accountable for bad behavior. Teacher's are hired to teach not to disciplin.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  20. Jason Baker

    It's about time that teachers are being held responsible for bullying in their classrooms. Since graduating university, I've personally been dealing with past issues of bullying when I was a kid that has affected my personal and professional development over the past 10 years. I still remember the day I was threatened with a steel window bar opener slammed horizontally against my throat while shoved in a corner.

    I am launching my own professional blog for digital marketing communications soon, but I will be highlighting my stories in effort to embrace growth, change, and to help inspire today's youth. Remember, one day, I will be a parent and I don't want my kid to go throw what I did.

    Controlling cyberbullying, sexting, and mobilbullies, will always be an ongoing problem unless websites such as facebook, twitter, and others create measurable controls to scan and protect kids. But ultimately, we need to do a better job as parents and role models to give our kids respect, show them how to give respect, and ultimately learn how to love ourselves.

    It's my opinion that bullying issues stem from problems at home, often from how we as parents or soon-to-be parents act around our kids. They are a lot smarter than we realize, and they often pick up our negative habits a lot quicker. We as human beings need to do a better job of respecting and loving ourselves to increase confidence that in turns creates a more positive outlook on our kids. It's imperative that we do a better job of self-improvement as humans. Start by reading Julien Smith's blog (http://inoveryourhead.net/) and many others... Hearing other inspiring that relate to our lives will start the process to help yourself that in turns help your parenting skills, which will help prevent growth of bullying.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
  21. Sue

    Hi Ali,
    I am 58 years old, and still hurt when I hear about bullying, because I was bullied, mostly in the sixth grade. I was pretty shy in jr. high and high school.

    Our son, who is now 32 was bullied even worse than I was, from fourth grade on. He was different, because he was totally into amphibians and reptiles. He was called gay and such, but wasn't. That actually doesn't bother me as much as the physical threats, one of which was carried out.

    I'm sure we just know bits and pieces of what happened. My son was unhappy with me when I went to talk to someone at his school about one person's harassment. Things got worse for him after that. Bullying had a big impact on his life. I don't want to go into all the details about that, but it was bad.

    The reason I'm writing this is because I think all types of bullying should be dealt with equally. No one deserves to be treated that way. I'm not sure if it would help to hold teachers accountable, though. I've noticed that parents of the bullies don't understand the implications of their kids' behavior. Maybe they should be accountable to at least make sure their children stop the bullying, or better yet, teach them to respect others.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  22. M.Njaga

    By Mucheru Njaga

    Author of Patch: Assumption is a crime.

    I was a bully.

    I didn't plan on being one. In fact, before then, I was a victim of bullying. As a freshman in a all boys boarding school, I along with all of the junior students served at the behest of the "Prefects", a small group of senior students. They ruled our school with a heavy hand and had more powers than the teachers. They bullied us physically and mentally , once we had to jump on our knees, other times they banned us from wearing pants and limited us to shorts to serve as a constant reminder to who we are. Verbal humiliation was an everyday occurrence as well.

    Four years later, I became a "prefect", a bully and part of a system I once despised. We would raid the freshman area in the middle of the night and make them follow whatever we ordered them to do at 2am or face severe punishment. We called them names in front of the dinning halls and used them as practice dummies during rugby games.

    All of this was acceptable – condoned by the school faculty at the time because the "Prefects" were seen as the guardians and mentors of the young students. Today the danger of bullying and its impact on our society is finally shaking many people awake. Many groups and organizations have made significant steps in our fight against bullying but there seems to be a growing number of bullying related deaths in America and the world.(STATISTIC)

    So where's the disconnect? Why are we letting this happen?

    Where does bullying start?

    In our efforts to address this growing problem, we tend to focus more on the end result of bullying rather than why it starts. The kids we recognize as bullies and vilify as the aggressors could easily be our very own children or next door neighbor. In other words, for every victim, there is a perpetrator, and I set out to find out what turns a lovable kid or teen into a bully. For the last couple of years, I compiled a case studies I believe could be a catalyst in our bid to stop bullying.

    Throughout my entire experience, I noticed the common motivation behind bullying is fear. As a victim, I was afraid to fight for what I knew was right and as a bully, I feared loosing the tight grip of power I held. It is this fear that keeps things status-quo and continues the cycle.

    The same basic principle plays out in schools today. Bullying is almost always a direct or indirect by product of fear. "Fear" of being labeled, "fear" of being uncool, fear of being seen as weak. Most of not all instances of bullying are rooted on fear. Sadly, it is this fear that prevents kids from living a free life, where they are free to be different, to be gay, to love a certain kind of music or activity, to be themselves.

    So how does true change take place?

    Define bullying with your kids and talk it out: For teens public perception has a substantial influence on their daily decisions. We need to clearly explain to kids what bullying is, how to spot bullying tendencies within themselves and how to avoid acting them out.

    Take away the cool factor:

    Show kids that bullying stems from fear, and we could effectively render bullying as an "uncool" deed. The largely successful anti-smoking, "Truth" campaign and the anti-drug, "Rise above the influence" campaign ads help significantly reduce those habits among young people. A well executed marketing campaign endorsed by a popular teen celebrity that showcases bullying as an unacceptable act can help garner attention for the cause.

    Be aware of tendencies towards bullying developing in kids:

    Educators, parents and children alike must be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of bullying before the problem gets out of hand. If there is a widespread understanding that fear is the underlying emotion perpetrator of the bullying cycle, those who observe a child who exhibits signs of fear and insecurity can spot a problem early on and raise concerns.

    Encourage self reflection:

    Talk with children who are bullying others and encourage them to consider their behaviors. Often, another problem is bubbling beneath the surface and it is necessary to determine the rot of the behavior in order to fix it. Since this self-examination can prevent those problems form manifesting into something more harmful, the earlier it takes place, the better.

    Promote open communication about bullying problems:

    We have to change the way kids view talking to adults and authority figures about bullying issues. Kids are often worried about "snitching" and the negative perception of telling adults when they are having these types of problems. We must convince them that it is brave courageous and admirable to put an end to the situation instead of remaining silent.

    Mucheru Njaga is the author of "Patch: Assumption is a crime", a young adult novel based in his personal experience with teen bullying that encourages debate and discussion among teachers, parents and students.

    http://www.patchthebook.com
    http://www.mnjaga.com

    October 26, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  23. Gunny

    Ali
    I think that we need to look deeper at the core issues of the bullying .It’s not kids fighting or being teased it is actually larger than that and starts at home.
    1. Parents need to be parents and stop feeding the children to society look at some of the 14+ year olds with cell phones, debit cards and if they drive a large number drive cars that teachers can’t afford. Parents need to get control of the kids and not let society raise them for them. Yes that means little john needs to loose privileges or get taken off the football team because he is bad or has bad grades. So be it. If the child needs any other form of discipline Mom/Dad does it. And this also means DSS needs to be realistic when the call comes that that butt being spanked isn’t assault. Take away the Cell phone or internet and game systems. Don’t let them drive or go out .Novel idea isn’t it.

    2...Teachers need to be allowed to teach. They are not baby sitters or police. I have spoken to so many that can’t do the job because or resources or lack thereof. They can’t deal with disruption because of legal issues and some schools have resource officers in place of teachers that dealt with bad situations. This is wrong society needs to support the teacher and make the kids toe the line. Is little SARAH needs to do detention so be it or if she needs kicked off the cheer leading squad for bad marks or attitude or drugs DO IT. Stop powdering the kids butt and stand next to the educator.

    3. Can we say public service , if a young adult is a bully and is found to be incorrigible it use to be he or she would be put in some form of detention or civil service for that as a punishment . So do it. Allow the system to work. I am not saying lock them up. Put them in pink suits and picking up trash on Saturday on the side of the road, teach them discipline through work.
    We are our own worst enemy. Our society is so busy being busy we have lost our family and true sight on what is important. The human being is the smartest, dumbest and most dangerous thing on earth.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
  24. Angela Savage Austin

    It saddens me on every level to know how our childrens are suffering on every level. The four most heartbreaking levels for me are hunger, medical, education and bigotry. As a mother of (2) wonderful sons, I must confess, it was them who taught me to be a better mother and person. Above all, we need to start a campaign against bigotry on every level especially regarding homosexuality and our children. Instead of calling our children "gay", we should be more concern if they are "HAPPY" and "HEALTHY".

    ...We need to START A CAMPAIGN TO END BIOTRY ...ON EVERY LEVEL...because it is the ultimate sin against humanity, for the Greatest gift God gave mankind is Love....NOT SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS!

    Was it not Jesus who Loved Us so much that He Sacrificed His Holy Life that We All Be Saved from our sins..JESUS SET THE EXAMPLE FOR US TO FOLLOW...Its time to stop sacrificing each other in the name of fear....Instead of ..."Whats Love Got To Do With It"...we should say WHAT HAS THIS TO DO WITH LOVE.

    INSTEAD OF WORRYING IF YOUR CHILD IS GAY>>>YOU SHOULD BE MORE CONCERN IF YOUR CHILD IS HAPPY AND HEALTHY....GOD IS THE ONLY ONE WORTHY TO JUDGE...I STILL FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD EVERY MONENT OF MY LIFE....Do You?....then ACT LIKE YOU KNOW...Do What Jesus Would Do...Love your brothers and sisters above all else. God Bless!

    October 26, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
  25. alberta treadway

    I have a 15 yrs old grandson, learning impaired/ADHD/Mood Nos etc. So his behavior is not always the best. We resently put him in a alternative school, out of the main stream. He has one teacher an just 3 to 4 student, an do All their work on computor. This teacher wife came in to the class an called my grandson a five yr old, an to straighten up! she isn't even affiliated with the school. this teacher has told him, he won't amount to anything! The substitute has no patience with these kids an she got down in his face an yelled at him, so he yelled back used a swearing word in the process of loseing his temper, an he got suspended a week/nothing happened to the teacher. I have had a special ed teacher two yrs ago tell me in the process of makeing my grandson get his feet off the wall that he fell out of his chair/hit the floor, called me an said, "I could sue him, that this was a reminder he had a good lawyer", "Than stated he told my grandson the same thing"! I even had to put a restraining order on a kid that attacked him in the halls at the school, after the SAME special ed teacher put the bully in the class with my grandson for a after school punishment! If a child is different/disabled/gay/learning impaired they are the target of the School an bullies!

    October 26, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  26. MBB

    I must say, such a public stance in writing is wonderful, however all the letters in the world will not encourage teachers or administrators to take a stance. I have two children that have been the victims of various bullies almost since the day they began elementary school. Every complaint, no matter what format, is swept under the rug. Principals and deans take copius notes during my multiple meetings and yet the bully of the days actions have only increased in intensity to the point that one of my children suffered a concussion at the hands of another child and both children no longer proudly display their Magen Davids...they are hidden away inside their shirts or left sitting on a dresser at home. Neither one ever stated they were picked on for being Jewish, I just noticed their necklaces no longer in sight.

    Name calling, assault and theft of personal property, choking, objects in eyes, aggressive behavior is simply dismissed as child's play or "boys will be boys" by the administrators of the schools my children attend. I've witnessed other chidren being verbally attacked and threatened by groups where I've put myself between the group of bullies and the child. These bullies have no fear of the administrators or their own parents. They say so themselves.

    My oldest son even told me once of a Swastika being etched into a desk at his school last year. When I bring all this to the attention of their schools, little is done. When I point out the very "strict" LAUSD policy of anti-bullying, I am assured the matter will be dealt with only to have my child pulled out of class in front of peers by administration, talked to about the incident, and then maybe the offender will be located and told "no no, we shouldn't do this". End result, my children are perceived as snitches and things escalate until one of them is harmed yet again.

    Back to the administrators I go and the vicious cycle begins yet again. The only response I get from administrators is "I wish all kids were as nice as yours because we wouldn't have these kinds of problems". So what they are telling me is nice kids get picked on and bullied, Jewish kids, Muslim kids, kids that wear glasses, and kids who are simply "different" than the crowd.

    If and only if the teachers administrators, children and parents alike are truly held accountable for these actions of psychological terrorism will this problem ever cease. I have been a very vocal advocate for the bullied, but I am finding each and every day that I am most definately in the minority.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  27. Yolanda

    It is about time. My kids had been bullied so much. I moved them from school to school. But living in a small community like this one there is hardly anywhere to go. School officials at all levels completely ignored this situation no matter how much I complained. Things just kept getting worse by the day. I finally ended up home shcooling 2 of my children, which is very hard for a single working mother. My third child is going through the same thing. And I just changed his school last week. I'm tired of the fighting and the medical bills and the heartaches.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
  28. twogirls612

    As a Lesbian mothers who are raising a daughter in the public school system (elementary), we are dealing with bullying. The school responds as though they are concerned but really don't know what to do. Their last response was to blame my daughter – if she didn't talk about us, maybe the kids wouldn't taunt her. We will continue to work towards a reasonable solution recognizing that we don't want to make it worse for our daughter by speaking up. It's a fine line between doing what's right and doing what's tolerated. Will this memo make it to every school district – I doubt it. We live in a very small town (to take care of elderly parents) and will make sure our daughter understands our expectations.

    October 26, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
  29. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Why do people feel the need to write a book when they make a comment .

    October 26, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  30. Nccole treadway

    I am now 33 yrs old. I can't work because I need help just to spell this an give this info. to u all. I was teased all my life in school, because I cannot read/write above a 3rd grade level. My mom is helping me tell my story. I was made fun of, beaten up an pushed around in school. Teachers told me to suck it up! Telling made it worse! My cousin is going through the same thing, an has sense starting school. Teachers have NOT improved at all. At his school 1 teacher on the play ground, an don't even see what is happeing. Those to fat/can't read/different is bullied to the point they turn into bullies to protect themself, an by the time they get in Jr. high they are the bullies instead. This is what is makeing bullies in our school. Kids have to learn to protect themselfs from verbal abuse from teacher/class mates as well as physical abuse, so the child turns into bullies themselfs---than it's ALL the childs fault as he gets older. We are makeing these bullies through our schools! Some times kids do have bad home inviroments, bad parents an poor community help. But a lot of it comes from our schools themselfs. My cousin has a teacher who yells at his class all the time. Down in your face behaviors. Kids go home crying, they aren't use to that. Than when they won't responde to that kind of abuse, the child is punished for non-coperation..I asked my mom to help me put this down for u all, because I had no protection but my parents who Constantly was at the school complaining. A parent can complain all they want, an the school authorities run right over them. It is good this has been posted here on cnn. My mom read it to me, an she has copied it for my aunt/uncle for my counsins protection at school. I hope we can do something so kids don't have to suffer the way I did. My parents really did try hard, but nothing helped.

    October 26, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
  31. Linda

    I have a friend whose 5 yr old autistic spectrum daughter has bruises and regression from bullying – by the bus driver. And the school is not going to prosecute! This is in Osceola county, FL, and absolutely reprehensible. The parents are basically broke (you raise four kids, with various special needs) and can't afford things like getting a proper psych. evaluation for their daughter, though they do have the bruises to show (pictures, at least) from the incident. Bullying is not just the kids – teachers and other school staff have, in other incidents, been the instigators of bullying.

    This MUST stop!

    October 26, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
  32. Mickey Blue Eyes

    While the MSM and the Liberal Elites say this is a great idea, it is only going to lead to stories of schools overreacting to minor events so as to avoid frivolous lawsuits the can't afford to defend against.

    Just like the zero intelligence "zero tolerance" policies resulting in kids being suspended if not arrested for possession of aspirin and the like.

    October 26, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  33. Angela Savage Austin

    @Michael Armstrong Sr....if people read more books perhaps fear of the "unknown" would not run rampart...just saying!

    October 26, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  34. Angela Savage Austin

    Children learn how to bully from Adults....for example look at campaign ads, politicians, authority figures (military, police), parents(domestic abuse), teachers(some), neighbors, etc. Their are the mirror reflection of us. Hate/bigotry spear heads it all.

    October 26, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  35. Julie Lutz

    It is confounding that so much anti-gay sentiment exists in our youth. It seems that it has always been the younger people who have led the way in breaking down the social barriers that generations before them created such as inter-racial dating/marriage and other "anti-establishment' norms. One would expect that this too should hold true when it comes to the acceptance of different sexual orientations but, in light of the recent teen suicides correlating with peer-based bullying, it seems that the open-,mindedness and free-thinking that is associated with our youth is a myth.

    While I applaud the Department of Education for addressing a situation that has long been ignored by school administrators and teachers, I can't help but think of the old saying, "charity begins at home." Considering the current homophobic climate that is perpetuated by the media, the military, our government and religious and social institutions, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that, to use another old saying, "the "chicks" have come home to roost". It's apparent that instead of rebelling against the sexual restrictions that society has placed on our individual freedoms, young people are acting out what they perceive to be the anti-gay attitudes that many of their adult role-models hold. Anti-bullying measures in our public schools is a positive step towards diminishing peer discrimination and violence but parents and other adult role models are responsible for the messages they send to our youth outside of school and in my opinion, adults must lead the way to breaking down the barriers this time.

    October 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
  36. Hillary Maddern

    I was bullied in junior high....other students teased me and called me a lesbian. At the time, I did not even know what the word meant. This was at Pennfield Junior High in Battle Creek, Michigan. When my mother and I spoke with school officials (1982 era), we were told that "these are good (girls) kids, and they would not do this to anyone". Well, it was being done to me. I spent three years in that school system being taunted and bullied and afraid to trust anyone for fear that I was being tricked into an embarrassing situation. It did not help that my family life was fairly unsupportive, with a verbally abusive stepfather and a pregnant mother who was ill during her pregnancy. I tried to commit suicide, unsuccessfully, three times and experimented with cutting. My whole life is colored by this period of my existence. To this day, I still have trouble with friendships and social events. I have difficulty trusting people and am constantly reliving the events of that time in my life. This should not only be about gays and lesbians, however, because this is happening to all kinds of children. I was not a lesbian then, as I am not one now, I was just easy to pick on. I was shy and quiet and wore glasses and, unfortunately, had been graced with a very bad cheap haircut for my first day of 7th grade at a new school (lucky me). I am a mother of two fine children and I try to teach them at home that it is unnacceptable to treat anyone in the way that I was treated. I hope to God that my children never treat anyone the way I was treated. At the time of my troubles none of the parents were ever contacted and no one listened and no one cared....

    October 26, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
  37. TomChicago

    Bullying is the tip of the iceberg that is hatred. Whether it is gay-hatred, black-hatred, Jew-hatred, fat-hatred, Muslim-hatred, or foreigner-hatred. While we cannot obliterate hatred, we can illuminate it for precisely what it is, and once it is exposed, maybe, like a vampire, it will wither and die.

    October 26, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
  38. Scott

    Teachers and principals are to blame. Plain and simple. Bullying continues because teachers and principals, historically, have found it easier to turn a blind eye to it. Every school - EVERY SCHOOL - has a place (a fence, a wall, a corridor, etc.) where the tough kids hang out and, through the gauntlet of which, the weaker kids must pass to get to class, only after suffering taunts, jeers, shoves and worse. Every kid at every school knows where that place is. If every kid knows where that place is, then every teacher and principal does, too (and if they don't, then shame on them). If these areas were monitored by staff, the bullies would disband, or move on. If principals and teachers cared, they could monitor these bully-prone locations (that every school has), and the next one, and the next, until the bullies realize they've run out of places to ply their craft. If bullies know they will not be permitted to get away with it, bullying will be substantially reduced if not eliminated. As long as teachers let the bullies know that they find it easier to turn a blind eye (as has been the case), bullying will continue unabated.

    October 27, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  39. Scott

    One more thing. Unless I've missed something, I've noticed nothing in this discussion thread from a teacher or school administrator, showing any degree of regret, introspection, or re-consideration about how they've handled bullying in the past. Nothing like, "Yes, I could have done better," or "Looking back, I wish I had..."). The only teacher comment I've seen here (again, unless I've missed something) was one that said that teachers hands are tied by budgetary constraints, or some such thing. I have to think that some teachers out there have read this thread. Does no teacher out there have any regrets? Does no principal out there think he or she has nothing to apologize for?

    October 27, 2010 at 8:51 am |
  40. Susan

    I remember being bullied when I was a little girl. I am half Asian and my father was in the military. Not only was I bullied by the other students, I was also ridiculed by the teachers. The teachers stood by and watched it happen and turned a blind eye when the bullying happened.

    I grew up with self-esteem issues until I sought therapy. Now I feel comfortable with myself. I cannot stand bullies. Through these years, I can see where kids can possibly pick up this behavior. I've seen grown adults bully others. I'm appalled at the hatred that I've heard coming from the mouths of people that are supposed to know better.

    Bottom line, kids learn by example. Be a good one.

    October 27, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
  41. Elwood

    Welcome to adulthood. I'm 56 years old, and I work in an office full of bullies, from the CFO down to the Accounting Manager. Schools are simply where it starts, it's condoned, and it ends up in the workplace.

    October 27, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
  42. Diana Little

    Alabama's legislators passed a law (+/- 1 1/2 years ago) that outlines requirements for school systems' policies about student harassment – it clearly states that the burden for reporting an incident (file a complaint) follows on the shoulders of the student being bullied/intimidated or the parents of the student. Too bad, the legislators didn't consult a counselor (or anyone who has ever read anything about being bullied). They would have discovered that the bullied child is highly unlikely to report it (and it becomes more so as the student enters high school) and the parents are usually the last to know. Consequently, the Alabama law actually harms those children who need protection and support. The the SDE sent out a "model policy" that did not even cover the law – unfortunately, many school boards blindly adopted it as the system policy. In an effort (a flimsy one at best) to address this growing problem, the legislators failed to protect the school administrators and teachers from law suits – but most of all, they failed to protect our children. The law only addresses student on student harassment – this continues to be problematic because many, many teachers ( and administrators) are bullies themselves (or set the scene to encourage their students to bully the defenseless). I've been in education over 30 years, and I see this problem increasing in schools – unfortunately, this behavior is being modeled for kids by parents, TV & movie stars, political leaders, so-called role models, and school personnel. Bullying is a "learned" characteristic – that means we can change it – we should not tolerate it. School policies actually punish the bullied student if he/she can't take it (bullying) any longer and lashes out. What kind of message are we sending? The bullied begins to know that there is no one there to help protect him and the bully's behavior is reinforced.

    October 27, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
  43. Scott

    Once again, another day of posts, and many stories by those who've been bullied, but not a single apology - not a single moment of reflection, or introspection, from a single teacher or principal, wondering whether they might have handled it even a little bit better.

    Is it any wonder that bullying in the schools continues?

    October 28, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
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