Critique of “Bullying It Stops Here” 6

Let’s Really Stop It.

I could not find the time to post about last Sunday’s Anderson Cooper’s “Bullying It Stops Here” until now. We still deal with the aftereffects of bullying everyday at my house. Yet, I hear how surprised people are about the study done by University of California sociologist, Dr. Robert Faris. Some have even called it groundbreaking. I laughed when I heard this and then I screamed at the television.

Does anyone ever listen to the parents of children who have been victims of bullying or to the victims themselves? The only new thing I got out of the whole show is a new term, “social combat.” I have been referring to it as the “mean girl” syndrome in our case. A syndrome that ironically began after the girls watched, “Mean Girls,” the movie inspired by Rosalind Wiseman’s book, Queen Bees and Wannabes.  

I know the book was not intended to have this effect, but in our case it did. I do believe Rosalind Wiseman’s other books including, Owning Up Curriculum: Empowering Adolescents to Confront Social Cruelty, Bullying, and Injustice, are more helpful and I do like how she now realizes the importance of the bystander’s and the teacher’s involvement in combatting bullying. I just think we need to go further than that if we really want to end the problem. 

Overall the study did not take some things into account. For instance I paused the video when they showed the survey questions the kids answered. Every child had a chance to identify someone who had been mean to them by student ID number and by initials. Now I know for a fact that the bullies identified my daughter as the mean one even though she was not. They even convinced others that she was mean. She was merely responding to the way they treated her. That is not meanness; that is self-preservation. These are two very different things. That is not to say that there are not children who are both victim and bully, but I would argue that this needs further investigation instead of taking it at face value in every case.

It is important to note that you cannot decide to put the victim and the bully in arbitration until you help the victim to heal and become empowered, and you cannot decide that they both need social skills training either which is what Dr. Phil suggested. They both need help, but social skills are not what the bullies lack. They lack kindness, empathy and in some cases humility.  

They overlooked other things too. They focused on “social combat” and bullying as it related to gay or perceived to be gay students at a school where the district has banned the term so that the victims cannot report the bullying without getting in trouble themselves; however, they missed other groups of victims. Basically any difference even medical health issues like allergies, diabetes, cerebral palsy and cancer, as well as those with learning disabilities, or any diagnosis are often victims of bullying to some degree.   

I think it is also important to educate teachers about how their own choice of words and/ or the way they talk to their students can set some children up for bullying. They need to understand the long-term effects of bullying too. Again, I am speaking from my family’s experience regarding this. You can read more about this in my previous post, Teachers Please Inspire and Support Our Children « Delightfully Different Life.    

People who believe bullying is no worse than it was in previous generations confound me. I strongly disagree and believe me I do know that many of my generation still carry scars of bullying. The biggest difference is society’s apathy about the bullying, leaving many of these children feeling they have nowhere to turn for help. My parents would never have allowed my brothers or me to be so blatantly mean, yet some parents today turn a blind eye, or are in denial. Add in the Internet, cell phones, and game consoles that too few learn to use responsibly and you have a recipe for disaster. Thus, the increase in suicides.

I am grateful that more light is shinning on this issue and I do hope more people are paying attention. I also hope I will have more opportunities to educate others about ways to help with this cause. Today I am grateful for every step in this direction no matter how small, and I am especially grateful that I got  a chance today. You can view it here: Keiki Talk – anti-bullying book. Thanks again Olena! 


  1. You are certainly right that the people in authority, including parents, need to better understand the scope and scale of what’s going on. It just seems like there’s been a lot of lip-service to the problem, but the reaction has had too limited a focus.

  2. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t comment about it directly. But, as per my own experience, I think we need to break down “bullying behaviors” further than we do. While all bullying needs to be addressed, there are different motivations for bullying and there are different degrees in the behaviors.

    One of the things that deeply disturbs me is the tendency to associate name-calling, harrassment and assault all as bullying and consider them as the same thing. They are not. While relatively minor bullying behaviors can escalate into more serious behaviors, and while those minor behaviors cause considerable emotional harm and must be addressed for the health and safety of students, there is a difference. Name-calling, cutting in line, exclusion and similar activities do not compare with harrassment and stalking or physical assault. The former behaviors can be adequately addressed with conscientious school, parent, and peer involvement. They can be addressed in the typical school/neighborhood setting successfully. Harrassment (sexual or otherwise), stalking, and physical assault are criminal activities and require police involvement. We shouldn’t have to make new, anti-bullying laws; we should enforce the laws that are on the books and recognize when kids are breaking them.

    I’m not saying this to lessen the significance of bullying by any means. We need to address bullying because it leaves scars even in its most minor forms. But it seems part of the reason that bullying is getting worse is because we associate criminal activities with bullying, and then research and identify the motives and personality issues associated with bullies and apply them to those who are engaging in behaviors that put others in serious, immediate jeopardy.

    Addressing bullying itself is important. I was bullied as a child and it changed me in ways that made suicide easy to contemplate. But I have also been harrassed, stalked and assaulted. The experience of being bullied doesn’t compare. It’s not the same thing.

    The sooner we realize we have children who are engaging in behaviors that would, were they adults who were doing the same thing, lead to serious jail time, the sooner we can face the issues and provide all the children involved with what they need.

    Name-calling, exclusion, and similar behaviors can be addressed with school counseling, social skills training and the like. Harrassment, stalking, and assault require more. The line between “simple” bullying and more serious behaviors is fuzzy at best, but perhaps can be distinguished with the difference between meanness and cruelty. “Mean Girls” aren’t just mean; they’re cruel. They do intentional harm and they take it as far as they can get away with, which is usually way too d***ed far.

    99% of what I’ve read where victims commit suicide or where kids are killed or where parents react in aggressive fashion haven’t described what I would call bullying. It may have started out that way, and had the bullying been addressed it might have prevented the tragic ends, but it escalated beyond that, including harrassment, stalking, assault, and more. These things are already illegal. Do we recommend social skills training for criminals? Not to my knowledge, not even in our most lenient rehabilitation programs.

    • Stephanie,
      I agree that many of the things being called bullying are criminal. The problem is those involved are still underage and most schools do not report them to the authorities. Even the bullying that does not involve physical contact is much worse that when I was growing up. It is more that just name calling and ignoring or even spreading rumors. It really does fall under the defamation of character and harassment laws, and this is criminal too, so if you applied adult laws to these children, we would probably have to arrest more than our jails could hold especially if you apply hate-crime laws and civil disability rights.

      I believe that when the school climate changes many of the behaviors decrease too. My son’s school starts from preschool teaching students to be tolerant of differences. Character education begins young, as does responsibility. Third and fourth graders have responsibilities that include helping the younger children. All of the teachers are on board too.

      My son has been at this school since kindergarten and is now in seventh grade. I have never seen a teacher be mean to a student or overlook meanness by others either. I have volunteered during lunch and for various other activities and the atmosphere is always respectful although there have been children who are not. They do not get away with the disrespectful behavior and that is the big difference. That does not mean they over punish either for they do not, they encourage good behavior and they also involve the parents on the day they learn of a problem. Problems are not allowed to escalate. I cannot say the same thing about my daughter’s former school.

      I believe if my daughter’s former school handled problems the same way, we would not still be dealing with the aftereffects of bullying. I think apathy and lack of respect for others is the root of this generation’s severe bullying problem. Throw in the Internet, gaming systems, and cell phone use that too many are allowing their children to use at younger ages, without teaching them responsible use of technology or the applicable laws that apply, and it is no wonder that we have children committing suicide. Parents need to learn how to parent and I think too many do not know how.

      • My children have been in schools that stress acceptance of differences and train kids against bullying–it makes a huge difference. So, I agree that school climate is very important.

        “It is more that just name calling and ignoring or even spreading rumors. It really does fall under the defamation of character and harassment laws…”

        That was part of my point. Name calling and the like are bad enough. It’s bullying, it’s mean, and it does harm. But behaviors are escalating beyond that far more quickly and far more severely.

        When we excuse those behaviors (I’m not suggesting you’re doing so, by any means) as kids being kids or fail to address the criminal activity because they’re kids, we do a disservice not only to the victims but to the perpetrators. There are juvenile court systems–presumably in every state, though I don’t know that as fact–and there are ways to address juvenile criminal activity that would not flood our jails. Ignoring it isn’t one of them, at least not one that would reduce the behaviors in question.

        More than what our response should be, what I was trying to convey is that studies that research bullying–i.e., meanness, name calling and the like–and than apply the results to “bullying”–i.e., the harrassment, assault, and other criminal behaviors that have resulted in children’s deaths–are doing a great disservice to our society.

        We need to acknowlege that what’s going on is more than “kids being mean.” (If it wasn’t clear before, my rant is in response to the use of “mean” in the survey and the broader implications.) If we call these behaviors what they are–if we use the words harrassment, assault, and stalking when they’re accurate–than we can figure out how to address what’s really happening. When we call it all “bullying” and then research the name calling and meanness, we’re basically burying our heads in the sand (as a society, not including you or me in the “we”) and acting on inaccurate information.

        Addressing real bullying before it escalates helps. But some kids (but victims and perpetrators) need more help than that. We can’t give it to them if we won’t even acknowledge how far their behaviors have escalated.

        • Stephanie,
          I agree and I always welcome your comments. You have valid points about the seriousness of the problem that too many are overlooking. I agree that “we do a disservice not only to the victims but to the perpetrators” by making excuses for bad behavior.

          Unfortunately, we have to get the schools and the authorities to understand too. I believe that the younger children and even some older children can be helped, without involving social services or juvenile courts, if we get the schools on board so that they grasp the serious nature of the problem. Unfortunately, not all juvenile courts and social service systems have the resources to actually help these children, and some have the potential to actually make the problem worse unless they too are educated. Educating parents is also important. Parents have to learn skills to help their children and they have to realize the serious nature of their child’s behavior towards others. I pray this happens soon!

          I still hear horror stories about the way some school counselors address, or should I say fail to address the problem. It breaks my heart and I pray for the children at these schools as I try to educate others where possible. I have offered my services free of charge and I have donated copies of my book to two schools and I plan to donate copies to our local school libraries as well. I also hope to talk to parent groups.

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