Carol Costello, Catherine Bradshaw, Johns Hopkins School of Health, bullies, bullied, Kevin Jennings, Oklahoma City's Western Heights High School, suzan le, Rachel Simmons, "Odd Girl Out", Marisa Velasco,

American Morning

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October 5th, 2010
07:25 AM ET

Bullying Solutions

by Carol Costello and Bob Ruff

(CNN) – At one time or another most anyone who has ever gone to school either has known a bully, been bullied or bullied others.

Many of us are also all too familiar with bullies thanks to Hollywood films, such as "Butch" of the "Little Rascals" or, more recently, the wicked "Queen Bee" in the 2004 film "Mean Girls."

Dr. Catherine Bradshaw, of the Johns Hopkins School of Health told us that about 10% of all school children have been bullied, another 10% did the bullying, and still another 10% both bullied and were bullied themselves.

Recently we reported that the Federal Government has taken notice, holding the first-ever bullying summit in August. And they've put up a comprehensive web site called "Stop Bullying Now" . But even the Federal Government's man in charge of school safety, Kevin Jennings, told us, "it's taken us a long time to develop a bullying problem. It's going to take some time to solve it."

Until that happens, parents and their children are faced with the question: How do you deal with a bully?

At Oklahoma City's Western Heights High School students are pledging to protect the bullied. It's especially important to Suzan Le, a senior. She knows how bullying feels:

"People always said I was really ugly, and I never knew it affected me so much. And like people would ask if I was a boy or a girl. And I was hurt. And I never wanted that to happen. And it lowered my self esteem really bad. And I never wanted to go to school."

Rachel Simmons wrote "Odd Girl Out" - she's an expert on bullying. She cautions parents that "the way an adult intervenes is just as important as the fact that they're intervening at all."

A good first step? CALM DOWN.

"Don't communicate with anyone, another parent or the school until you are calm, and able to have a respectful conversation. Because it's very easy to get marginalized as the crazy parent in a school."

Next: DOCUMENT how your child is being bullied.

Then: ASK your child what he or she wants you to do.

Simmons says that it's critical that a parent remembers that "you are not the one who has to walk into that school for eight hours a day. And you may want to do solution-A, but if you do that solution your child may be mercilessly retaliated against.

Simmons says bullies are often popular, socially skilled kids who can enlist an army of bullies.

Marisa Velasco, along with Suzan Le, is also participating in Western Heights' anti-bullying campaign. Velasco knows exactly what Simmons is talking about. In junior high school, she was a bully. Why?

"I don't really know if there was a real reason. I guess it was just an easy target I guess." She adds that it was easier to bully because she saw others doing the same thing.

Did it make her feel better? "It's not that it made me feel better, it's that I knew they felt worse."

Which brings us to how bullies ought to be stopped. DON'T HUMILIATE THEM.

Simmons: "You humiliate a bully publicly you are much more likely to see retaliation. Sit down with a child and say, this is what I'm seeing. It's not acceptable. I know you're capable of more. And if it happens again, these are the consequences."

What about charging bullies or their parents with a crime?

Simmons thinks - generally - it's a bad idea. Making an example of a kid or a family by throwing the book at them is not going to change behavior. Kids don't care about other kids who are made examples of. What you want to do, she says, is help kids become better citizens. It's a tougher road but, in the end, more effective.


Filed under: American Morning • Bullying
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Aerin Simon

    I also disagree with the so-called expert. Bullies should be made to feel what they caused others to feel. All right, maybe I'm reactionary – and I know that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has passed the idiotic law of making it illegal for parents to spank their children – but those bullies who caused the death of the Irish girl should be BEATEN! Send them out of state to be beaten if you are so afraid of breaking the law! If their parents don't feel they can do this, then someone else in authority should! Alternatively, if the bullies were Roman Catholic, why can't the Church do something useful for a change and EXCOMMUNICATE them!

    Here's something else bullies should consider. Many of the kids who were picked on grow up to be .... LAWYERS! Isn't that a scary notion?

    October 5, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
  2. George Johnson

    Bullying is a more extreme form of being unsensitive to others, and represents a failure of one's behavior to be appropriate with someone else. Both the bullied and the bully lose in this interaction.

    I feel the only way to address interpersonal relationships is to have an emphasis built into our school's curriculum which will do just this. This can address not only bullying, but discrimination in all of its faces. Just imagine how much happier everyone would be
    with this type of understanding. We would be increasing our emotiional quotient.

    George Johnson

    October 5, 2010 at 11:57 am |
  3. Thomas

    Where do you find these experts? Those are the worst advices an expert could offer. It's basically saying, "just take the abuse and do not humiliate the bully." First off, violence should be a last resort. The child should report the bullying, if nothing gets done, I would not frown upon physical violence if my child fights back.

    Bullies hang in groups to act tough but once the bully gets punched in the mouth unexpectedly, their friends are not going to help. Teach your kids to throw a knock out punch, it'll solve bullying.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:11 am |
  4. mike sey

    Couldn't agree more with those who think that the non-humiliation approach is a crock. I notice that the consequences your experts propose are pretty meek. They might work with a few hangers-on but are unlikely to change the behaviour of the ring-leaders or stop the
    bullying.
    I was lucky in that though small I was able to fight back and found a bloody nose or two usually solved the problem for me. I was also lucky in that my mum would patch me up and encourage me to get right back in there.
    On the other hand sticking up for a bullied kid was tiresome and brought few rewards since most kids were indifferent or preferred the safe course of allying themselves with the bullies who used humiliation and numbers as a weapon.
    Now if that were reversed, you might get somewhere.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:10 am |
  5. S

    I am the mother of a 6 year old autistic boy. I would love to see a story on bullying involving special needs kids. My son is constantly picked I am scared because of his inability to communicate. He can't tell me what is done or said to him. On the playground he was choked, kicked and hit. I also overheard some kids telling him to go tell a big kid to "go something himself" he is dangerously obedient and will mimic any 2- 3 word phrase he is told to. Both of those instances my husband and I intervened, the kid who was physically hurting him didn't understand what the big deal was. His mother's response was "boys do that kind of thing, it is good for them. It might even help your son stop acting so strange" Every time we pass by them in a store, the boy makes comments about my son not being "stupid" because of his speech problems (although he has above avg intelligence)and the kid still throws things at him any chance he gets. We constantly discuss and practice scenarios about bullying and how to tell if someone is really your friend but it never seems to click.
    He does not go anywhere alone (for a multitude of reasons), but at school the teachers can't be expected to hover around him constantly. How do you prepare a child who can't understand that not everyone who talks to you is saying something nice?

    October 5, 2010 at 9:50 am |
  6. TFaceye

    Bullying of children is overall the most important category of bullying, but not only children are bullied. My elderly parent, who was an assisted-living facility resident, and I have experienced it. Those responsible, for all we know, may have bullied as children, or may have been bullied.

    It's not entirely like in the movies. Bullies often are charmingly manipulative persons who can turn the tables against the bullied, claiming not to have instigated, or even making the bullying seem somehow deserved.

    I now tend to think that the issue should be forced, preferably by a significant other of the bullied, and preferably without violence. Assertive, even vociferous speech becomes necessary when that course of action is taken. Bear in mind that some administrators, in school or in another setting, take such offense at being accused of countenancing or somehow perpetrating abuse that law enforcement may be called in hopes of having the accuser arrested. I know.

    Unmet bullying may have long-term effects or repercussions for the bullied and/or the bully.

    October 5, 2010 at 9:36 am |
  7. Sally

    Scott...you're right on!! I've had 2 sonse badly bullied...the eldest now 30, didn't want me to interfere, and after 7 years of being bullied he finally broke and had a fist fight with one of his main bullies in front of the whole school. He was suspended of course but I certainly had a say in the meeting we had to re enter school. My 13 year old has suffered bullying since 2nd grade and I was not about to let it follow him to high school. Whenever an altercation took place (like them stealing his shoes in the yard) he always got punished for defending himself. The last straw was when they hunted him down after school (on 5 bikes) with Matt on rollerblades. When he got home I got in the car and drove down to talk to the kids in the village. They suggested thay should come to the house and apologize, and 1 did. One other boy was hanging out on his bike accross the street and took off when he saw me, but stopped just uo the road...I followed him and told him that the harrassment was going to stop now, and that I would be on his case any time he decided to start up again. So far this year has been goog, although I was visited by the police and told I should handle it thru school or police, but then stated that it was just kids being kids!!! My point made...school and police don't help. You've got to be proactive and if that makes me a "crazy Mama" that's okay...I can take it!

    October 5, 2010 at 9:22 am |
  8. Debbie

    I completely disagree with the "expert" narrator who stated that bullies should not be embarrassed in front of others and that parents of the bullied child can do nothing about it.

    My daughter was bullied in middle school by a girl. She was called horrible names, sworn at, tripped on the bus and laughed at by the ringleader of this bullying group. My daughter was defenseless against this group. During a school function I attended with my daughter I saw the bully and her mother. I decided to confront the situation directly since all parties were present. I asked the mother and the daughter if we could step away into a empty classroom. With that I told the mother in the presence of my daughter and the bully the events that had been happening. At first the bully denied everything. I then pulled out the big guns, so to speak, and began to repeat, in the bullies words, profanity and all everything that had transpired in the past two weeks. I looked at her sternly with fire in my eyes and asked her "can you deny that." The bully knew I meant business. She began to cry and confessed to the bullying. I told her and her mother that if it happened one more time I would take the situation to the school as well as the police. My daughter was never bullied again. The "expert's" advice on today's segment in my opinion is completely wrong. If your child is being bullied and feels defenseless a parent must get involved and bully the bully into fearing what the outcome of continued bullying will bring to her.

    October 5, 2010 at 9:17 am |
  9. J

    That thing about not humiliating the bullies is absolute crap. The popular, socially adept kids (ones most likely to gain power to abuse later as adults) are the type who most deserve to be humiliated, preferably by having their behinds kicked by their own victims. That's why I would recommend taking the victims out of physical education class and letting them substitute martial arts for it. (I say this from having had to deal with many bullies as a kid in school, and later having studied martial arts as a young adult. I should have studied it much sooner.)

    October 5, 2010 at 9:00 am |
  10. Dan in Lafayette,IN

    I am a father of two adult men and two grandchildren(boys)and as I was taught to love others as you love yourself. I have taught my twenty year old and thirty one year old the same and my oldest son has also taught his children to love others in the same way and they are doing very well in school and have many friends. If parents would just teach their children to love others no matter what others may look like or act like, just love them as they love themselves we all would grow into a better world!

    October 5, 2010 at 8:55 am |
  11. Mary

    Fine the parents when their kids are bullies...they will shut the little creeps up. Some parents think that just being at the top of the class and making A's is all their kids need. They need to learn that is only a small part of "making it." If you are not a leader, degrade people and act like a jerk, all the A's in the world will not help you.

    October 5, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  12. Scott

    My one problem with the story is it's use of touchy feelie theories. For decades everybody was told to walk away from bullies, and that bullies were really just depressed or insecure people who lashed out because they felt bad. Now of course studies have shown that the exact opposit is true, that bullies are usually popular kids.

    The "Expert" said do not humiliate a bully because they will retaliate, but the two major bullies in my schools growing up were both stopped by humiliating them. Both times one of their targets older brother or sister showed up at school and in front of the class each told a different bully that if they ever touched their little brother/sister again they would be in trouble. That ended both issues for both the boy and girl being bullied immidiately.

    October 5, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  13. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    As a parent with two grown boys I can assure you that it is not all the parents fault most of a child's bad habits are from the other children they hang out with to fit into the crowed a parent can only do so much at home it should be up to the schools to monitor the children from bad influence when the kids are away from home .

    October 5, 2010 at 7:59 am |
  14. sarah

    most of the parents of bully children are bullies themselves and bullied their own children...it is also a learned behavior

    October 5, 2010 at 7:45 am |
  15. Gail Faber

    While in 3rd grade, my daughter was physically and verbally bullied by a 3rd grade boy. He even went to the point of detaining her, and then tripping her at the top of a slide, causing her to go down head first into the gravel and dirt. Then he told her she deserved it while he kicked dirt into her bleeding face! This was not the first, or last incident. Each and every time that this happened not only was he called to the principles office, but my daughter was too. She received no help from the principle and in fact was reprimanded. I informed the principle that I had told my daughter to scream, until she got an adult's attention and if that didn't work she was to scream, hit, kick, bite, and do whatever was necessary to get away from him. The principle told me that she had informed my daughter she would be expelled if she did any of that! NOW I had the situation of the principle herself bullying my daughter!!!!!

    October 5, 2010 at 7:43 am |
  16. Mark Davis

    It's ALL about parenting. If your child is a bully, then you are a BAD PARENT! Period. If you can't teach your child respect, honesty, and good moral values; you shouldn't have children!!

    October 5, 2010 at 7:36 am |