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Anyone else disturbed by the latest surge in teen suicide/ bullying?

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 
I am wondering if there is a toxic culture in our schools, that is permitted to continue or is not being addressed by those in charge.

Can schools get tougher on bullying? Can students be expelled for bullying? Can they have a "no tolerance" policy for bullying, so all the bullies can get sent to one big bully school, and they can just bully each other there?

I for one am disturbed by teacher's and administrator's claims of lack of knowledge. While social media may be private and unobserved by monitors, I taught high school for many years and was totally privy to much of student interaction. From what I've read, particularly in the case of Phoebe Price, many showdowns and insults were performed in front of a large audience. In another instance I believe a math teacher has been named in a lawsuit by a family, as much of the bullying was done in his classroom while he was "in charge".

My daughter is quite young, so this is a ways off, but I would hesitate to send her into the toxic, free for all atmosphere that is in many secondary schools.

How does your child's school address this issue? What can be done?
post #2 of 44
Well yes and no.

I think bullying is being more addressed now than it was when, say, I was growing up. Really I would say since Columbine (although as it turns out, Columbine was not a case of Eric and Dylan being bullied - if you read the excellent book by Dave Cullen, you'll get a much fuller picture). While there are certainly failures, and I know parents in this forum have experienced them, I think schools and communities are learning much more about the ramifications of bullying.

That's one reason the media steps in to report these incidents, although I also know (as someone who works in the industry) that the social media aspect is part of what makes a good headline.

However I also think that our culture has developed a pretty strong push to perceive ANY conflict among kids and teens as "bullying" and I don't personally think that helps. Emily Bazelton has been doing some great reporting on the Phoebe Prince story over at Slate.

So no, I don't think our schools are getting worse overall.

However like any parent I do worry and I know that bullying is real and does occur.

I also don't think that zero tolerance policies work at all - and the research backs that up. True bullying is very complex, involving the role of the bystanders as well, and when you have a zero tolerance policy it tends to just result in this good/evil dynamic that the media feeds, and also reporting goes down as the stakes are so high.
post #3 of 44
A book you may want to pick up is "The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander."
http://www.amazon.com/Bully-Bullied-...6630493&sr=8-1

I was talking to my dad who was responsible for organizing his 50th high school class reunion this past summer. He contacted people from his class who flat out refused to come to the reunion because of horrible memories of being bullied. Bullying has been around a long, long time.
post #4 of 44
Here's some recent research on bullying:

"Who Is Likely to Become a Bully, Victim or Both? New Research Shows Poor Problem-Solving Increases Risk for All"
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0708160937.htm
post #5 of 44
Recently there's been a lot more press, but there have been situations like Columbine for decades--just not as much publicity. It's hit the news, and this is a good thing. The sad part is that there are people out there who believe that those who fail to conform to the mainstream are somehow flawed and need to be ostracized--and I believe this has been occurring since the dawn of man.

How many times I've heard parents give up on changing something about their kids hoping the teasing at school will take care of it! (I'm thinking booger-picking, wearing the same clothes, doing something different to hair, etc.) I think some of the trick is finding a very diverse school, one where no matter what, a "different" kid will have a way to fit in somewhere. And I have to wonder--how many of those gay kids would have made it if they had a different school to go to or some other ways to fit in, including family!

I'm glad there's a lot of press about it now, but I still think the generations of bully-ers are raising their own bullyish kids as though it's acceptable.

Instead of looking for the bullies, I would wish that schools are looking for the kids who fail to conform or fail to fit in. The love and attention should really go to them--and some excellent coping skills and self-esteem building wouldn't hurt. It's much more effective to strengthen the lamb as opposed to weakening the predator, at least in school.
post #6 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dingletwitz View Post
And I have to wonder--how many of those gay kids would have made it if they had a different school to go to or some other ways to fit in, including family!
I actually think that's the exception to my thinking on bullying. The political climate in the US (and in some parts of Canada, although at least we don't have the overall issue) totally contributes to that particular issue, yes. When it's okay to stop same-sex couples from equality in marriage rights, then it's not a huge extension down the line from there.
post #7 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
I actually think that's the exception to my thinking on bullying. The political climate in the US (and in some parts of Canada, although at least we don't have the overall issue) totally contributes to that particular issue, yes. When it's okay to stop same-sex couples from equality in marriage rights, then it's not a huge extension down the line from there.

I agree with you.
post #8 of 44
You can't use the media to get an idea of what is really happening anywhere. They are sensationalist and they pick and choose stories based on the current fear. Reporting of teen suicide is on the rise but the actual instances of it aren't. I'm not saying that bullying is not a problem but the idea that no one is doing anything about it is innacurate.

My youngest was getting bullied verbally and physically in 3rd grade. His friend decided he wanted to be more popular and started abusing him to win the favor of the "top dogs" on campus. These 4 boys were all redshirted and so a year+ older than they should have been for grade and a year older than DS. We first worked with DS on how to handle it. When that didn't work, we went to the teacher. The teacher was a male and I thought would make a difference but it didn't really. We finally went to the principal and she totally turned things around! At first, I didn't agree with her tactics but there is no arguing results. DS is in 5th grade now and those boys haven't bothered him since middle of 3rd.

Quote:
I'm glad there's a lot of press about it now, but I still think the generations of bully-ers are raising their own bullyish kids as though it's acceptable.
It is difficult to change things when the parents don't see the problem. DS started getting bullied because we aren't religious and they are Christian. Though DS is a top student and citizen who hasn't harmed a fly, the parents actually felt my son (then 7) deserved to be tortured. The boys would come to school saying these awful things you could tell came straight from their parents mouths. They felt DS was a second-class citizen so of course, their boys didn't see any problem making his life miserable.
post #9 of 44
An excellent novel about this topic is "19 minutes". We read this in my high school English class, and my students comments are very enlightening.

I have taught high school for the past 16 years; during that time, we have seen the explosion of the internet. Yes, bullying has always happened. But the internet has completely changed the scope of bullying. Bullies can now put something online and have it go around the community in a matter of minutes. It is no longer situated just in school. Parents of the both the bullied and the bullies need to pro-active. My school has a bullying form online for students to report any type of bullying and we do address it. As a teacher, I am always on the look out for any type of negative behavior, but kids do know how to hide their actions. However, whenever a student has come to me with any complaints, I deal with it.

IMO, schools haven't gotten worse as far as culture and bullying- but technology has made it possible for the bullies to be meaner and take it to another level.
post #10 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by mar123 View Post

IMO, schools haven't gotten worse as far as culture and bullying- but technology has made it possible for the bullies to be meaner and take it to another level.
I agree. I think bullies are just as nasty as they were when I was a child but boy am I glad that I didn't have to deal with them having cell phone cameras and the social networking sites.

While I do think that by no means should we loosen up on vigilance in the public schools in regards to bullying, it really disgusts me when people act as if the schools are the genesis of the bullying.

Look, in the US it's totally acceptable to demonize people whom you disagree with politically or religiously or whom you perceive as different from yourself. Why in the hell would we expect our children to not notice that the adults like to listen to shows that encourage xenophobia and total denigration of the "other side" as nonentity traitors? We are so immersed in it, I think a lot of people have no clue as to what they say and how it is percieved because they're in a constant echo chamber of "like minded" thoughts.

If we shrug off political ads and radio programs as "well, that's just how things are nowadays" it makes no sense to me for people to gasp in horror when children of those groups that are "destroying our culture/America/might turn me into what they are" are targeted.

Until we as people and society decide to stop boosting our own self worth by how many people we can destroy to feel superior in our own lifestyle, until we can choose to still treat people humanely and with respect even if they're the "wrong" color, political/religious affiliation, or national origin, then spare me the scapegoating of the public schools. I think the schools have better (though enforcement is something less than desirable) policies than they ever have in the past. However, our society is a hateful, xenophobic, rhetorically sloppy one at present and until we decide that it's worth it to get up off our butts and change that I think it's hardly fair to blame the kids for acting out what is mainstream "entertainment" for adults.
post #11 of 44
I don't know how much bullying is occurring in my kids schools and their outlaying activities. We have in the past had some serious bullying issues in my sons team sports. But no one seems to want them and they shop programs. However suicides do seem to be up in our world. Just 10 days ago a sophmore killed himself at my teens high school. On the second day of school, an older hockey player killed himself. So we have been having a lot of discussions.
post #12 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by whatsnextmom View Post
Reporting of teen suicide is on the rise but the actual instances of it aren't.
based on?

Quote:
I'm not saying that bullying is not a problem but the idea that no one is doing anything about it is innacurate.
totally agree. At the public school my kids attended last year, bullying was taken VERY seriously. It was treated both as a discipline issue and as a mental health issue. Classes where bullying was an issue had special *lessons* presented by the school social worker, kids were put in pull out sessions, and kids were suspended as a last resort.

The principal and staff were determined that EVERY child feel safe at school. School policies, such as not allowing kids to save seats at lunch, were part of the plan. The teachers kept a special eye on kids they felt were at high risk for bully, such as sn kids who are mainstreamed.

I know some school turn a blind eye, but because of what I've seen first hand, I know that many of the adults who work with teens are aware, compassionate, and doing everything they can.
post #13 of 44

Hold on to Your Kids

Sorry if this has already been mentioned. I haven't had the chance to read through the whole thread yet.

This topic is addressed to some extent in Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld. Neufeld proposes (and I'm inclined to agree) that the issue is rooted in kids being inappropriately attached to their peers instead of their parents (and other adults able to provide positive influences and connections).

Kids have always been bullied. The difference is that today kids don't have the secure attachment to a support network of family and adult community like they used to. When kids are rejected by their peers they have nowhere to go. Their peers are all they think they have.

The book is about the peer orientation in general, and talks about all sorts of problems that stem from that it - two of them being how peer oriented kids are more likely to become bullies or how peer oriented kids are far less resilient to bullying.

The book is on the academic side as far as parenting books go, but it's absolutely worth reading.
post #14 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChetMC View Post
Sorry if this has already been mentioned. I haven't had the chance to read through the whole thread yet.

This topic is addressed to some extent in Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld. Neufeld proposes (and I'm inclined to agree) that the issue is rooted in kids being inappropriately attached to their peers instead of their parents (and other adults able to provide positive influences and connections).

Kids have always been bullied. The difference is that today kids don't have the secure attachment to a support network of family and adult community like they used to. When kids are rejected by their peers they have nowhere to go. Their peers are all they think they have.

The book is about the peer orientation in general, and talks about all sorts of problems that stem from that it - two of them being how peer oriented kids are more likely to become bullies or how peer oriented kids are far less resilient to bullying.

The book is on the academic side as far as parenting books go, but it's absolutely worth reading.
"Used to" when?

How does he reconcile his ideas with all the research about how parents spend more time with their kids than ever before, and that parents and children on on the same page about just about anything surveyed about (from politics to clothing) than at any previous time in the past century? Anecdotally and according to all the research, kids and parents are tighter than they've probably ever been before. I fail to see how his book stands up to all of the conventional wisdom and clearly documented trends about child rearing in the US. There is no way on earth that anyone can claim that kids today are less attached to their parents than they were in the 1970s.
post #15 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChetMC View Post
how peer oriented kids are far less resilient to bullying.
in my experience, it's kids who have trouble picking up social cues but who want to liked who are the easy targets. Many sn kids are targets.

My DD, who is on the autism spectrum and has trouble with social cues, isn't a target because she really isn't wired enough for social interaction to care. So once in a blue moon a child says something unkind to her, but because she truly doesn't care what they think, it's no fun for the bully so they find someone else.

Having watched this play out, I dislike the idea that kids who are "peer oriented" are less resilient to bullying. Because all kids *should* be at least a little peer orientated. If they aren't, they have a whole other set of problems.

Of course neuro typical children want their peers to like them. That's just normal.
post #16 of 44
It has always been there, it's just getting more media attention now, and the cases involving cyber bullying get press because they are more sensational. But the bullying has always been there, the suicides have always been there. Schools create toxic cultures, some far worse than others, and some kids targeted far more than others, but grouping same age peers in an artificial social environment is a pitri dish for cruelty.
post #17 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by frugalmum View Post
It has always been there, it's just getting more media attention now, and the cases involving cyber bullying get press because they are more sensational. But the bullying has always been there, the suicides have always been there. Schools create toxic cultures, some far worse than others, and some kids targeted far more than others, but grouping same age peers in an artificial social environment is a pitri dish for cruelty.
I agree. Although it's really tough to hear about as adults, I'm really glad that people are aware that bullying is really, really bad (seems obvious, doesn't it? And yet so many people for so long have just had the attitude of "kids will be kids!") and that it's becoming okay to discuss.
post #18 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by lach View Post
"Used to" when?

How does he reconcile his ideas with all the research about how parents spend more time with their kids than ever before, and that parents and children on on the same page about just about anything surveyed about (from politics to clothing) than at any previous time in the past century? Anecdotally and according to all the research, kids and parents are tighter than they've probably ever been before. I fail to see how his book stands up to all of the conventional wisdom and clearly documented trends about child rearing in the US. There is no way on earth that anyone can claim that kids today are less attached to their parents than they were in the 1970s.
Yup, I agree. To hear this book called academic makes me cringe a bit. It ignores so much actual research.

To have it related to bullying makes me uncomfortable because I found the book's intolerance for influences outside the family to be actually in line with the conditions it takes to create bullies.

I think the Coloroso book is a much better read - and also proposes actual solutions like having peers (bystanders) take responsibility.
post #19 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by frugalmum View Post
It has always been there, it's just getting more media attention now, and the cases involving cyber bullying get press because they are more sensational. But the bullying has always been there, the suicides have always been there. Schools create toxic cultures, some far worse than others, and some kids targeted far more than others, but grouping same age peers in an artificial social environment is a pitri dish for cruelty.
In the past (pretty recent past,) suicides would be covered up as "accidents." It all used to get swept under the rug.
post #20 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post

Look, in the US it's totally acceptable to demonize people whom you disagree with politically or religiously or whom you perceive as different from yourself. Why in the hell would we expect our children to not notice that the adults like to listen to shows that encourage xenophobia and total denigration of the "other side" as nonentity traitors? We are so immersed in it, I think a lot of people have no clue as to what they say and how it is percieved because they're in a constant echo chamber of "like minded" thoughts.

If we shrug off political ads and radio programs as "well, that's just how things are nowadays" it makes no sense to me for people to gasp in horror when children of those groups that are "destroying our culture/America/might turn me into what they are" are targeted.

Until we as people and society decide to stop boosting our own self worth by how many people we can destroy to feel superior in our own lifestyle, until we can choose to still treat people humanely and with respect even if they're the "wrong" color, political/religious affiliation, or national origin, then spare me the scapegoating of the public schools. I think the schools have better (though enforcement is something less than desirable) policies than they ever have in the past. However, our society is a hateful, xenophobic, rhetorically sloppy one at present and until we decide that it's worth it to get up off our butts and change that I think it's hardly fair to blame the kids for acting out what is mainstream "entertainment" for adults.
This is such an excellent point. I don't think it's confined to the U.S.A. either.

At the same time that bullying in schools became a hot topic and zero tolerance policies were implemented, it seems like bullying in the adult sphere has taken off. It's the norm now in the media, both in news and political coverage and entertainment. It's a core ingredient of much of what is produced in print, radio, television and internet today.

Watch any comedy or drama - you'll spot bullying behaviour. Watch any reality show - bullying is the core essence of these shows. News shows, newspapers and magazines and internet journalists pride themselves on bullying ("hard hitting") in the pursuit of so-called investigative journalism - most of it really just sensational ratings grabs while often missing most of the real story.

We call it "painful honesty" about people, situations and life, but it's gone way beyond the kind of "warts and all" scrutiny that once was celebrated. It's become a brutal intolerance and persecution to score easy points.

While schools struggle to find an effective response to the problem, it's become endemic in our culture.
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